sparky the bison
U.S. Fish and Wildlife

'Sparky,' the Bison that Survived a Lightning Strike, Dies at Iowa Refuge

The "World's Toughest Bison" has died at 14 years old.

Sparky, the world-famous bison who survived a lightning strike has died in Iowa at 14 years old.

As you may remember, the male bison was a star attraction at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Prior to 2013, he lived a fairly normal life and didn't really stand out. But then he was struck by lightning in 2013.

Amazingly, he survived and sported a really cool and distinctive scar that made him an instant hit at the refuge.

However, staff noticed Sparky wasn't with the rest of the herd during their weekly monitoring last week.

A subsequent search found him dead, and because he'd already been dead a few days, they were unable to do a necropsy to determine a cause of death.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bison typically live for 15 years. So, after surviving a lightning strike and ultimately living for 14 years, it's safe to say Sparky had a full life.

"After we do a necropsy, we leave the bodies in the field for scavengers to clean up. The coyotes and turkey vultures, as well as small mammals, insects, and bacteria work to break down the carcass until just the skeleton is left. It is all part of the circle of life," the Neal Smith Refuge wrote on Facebook.

Sparky was originally born in Montana at the National Bison Range, but was moved to Iowa at 2 years old. He also fathered three calves in his lifetime.

Because of his experience with the lighting strike, he was often lovingly given the label of "World's Toughest Bison."