The deer were likely killed Sunday night, said neighbor Randy Lantz, 54.
After neighbors found the deer Monday and called authorities, a Kenosha County Sheriff's deputy on Tuesday went out to the rural field located near Salem, Wis., about 5 miles from the Illinois border, and found the six dead deer lying in a circle with another one a distance away.
In the center of the group of six there was a hole about 5 inches deep and 5 inches across, said Sgt. Bill Beth of the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department.
“It looked like the earth had been blown out of that hole,” he said. The deputy “definitely thinks it was a lightning strike.”
Beth said the deputy didn’t see visible injuries on the deer, but neighbors said one deer had red marks on its body.
Lantz said the seventh deer was found by neighbors about 75 yards from the group.
Lantz said he saw the herd Sunday, drinking from deep puddles that had formed after a heavy rainfall.
But on Monday morning neighbors found the deer dead.
“I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this,” Beth said.
A meteorologist who confirmed there were thunderstorms in the region Sunday said it is possible for animals to be killed by lightning in an empty field. He said it’s common among groups of cows.
“Chances are if [the deer] were out in the field and they are the tallest object ... they stand a better chance of being struck by lightning,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk.
He couldn’t say what specifically killed this group of deer, but in general, the electricity from one bolt could have “jumped from animal to animal.”
The deer will remain on the field, where nature will take its course, Beth said.