IDAHO FALLS -- Dozens of geese dropped dead out of the sky above Idaho Falls Saturday night.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the dead geese were discovered in a parking lot near North Yellowstone Highway and Lincoln Road.
James Brower, Fish and Game's regional volunteer services coordinator, said the most likely explanation is that the birds were struck by lightning as they migrated north during Saturday's storm.
All 51 of the birds - 48 snow geese, and three Ross's geese - were dead when an IDFG officer arrived, and the carcasses were grouped within about a hundred yards of each other, he said. Several of the birds appeared to have "exploded" stomachs, according to Brower.
Teresa Keim told KIFI that she found 61 more snow geese on the roof of Yellowstone's Warehouse, bringing the actual death toll to more than 100.
A single strike could have electrocuted the entire flock, Brower said. The geese fly high enough that they are often not visible from the ground, and tend to group "pretty close together," he said.
Fish and Game officers also explored whether hailstones from the storm or a group hard landing - waterfowl occasionally mistake wet asphalt for a pond or lake - could explain the deaths.
But in each of those cases, Brower said, officers would expect to find some of the geese dead and others merely injured, with broken legs or wings.
IDFG will conduct necropsies of several of the birds to confirm how they died.
Brower said that although he had heard of large-scale lightning strike deaths around the country, he had not seen anything like it during his nearly eight years with the Idaho Falls office.
"It's always a sad occurrence for sure, we hate to see this happen," he said.
Luckily, the lot was nearly empty when the geese tumbled into it, and no cars or people were hit. Brower said the deaths will not have a major impact on the overall snow geese population.