Updated: Jun 24, 2022
Whether you are a Bigfoot or Skunk Ape researcher, a hunter or just curious about what animals are in the woods near you at night, being able to identify them by their eyeshine is a pretty cool skill to have.
In identifying animal eyes at night, you should consider four primary factors – the color, the shape of the eyes, pupil slit orientation, and eyelid shape. Predatory animals have glowing eyes with vertically elongated pupils, while harmless animals have horizontally elongated pupils.
Before we look at what eye shine colors go with which animals, let’s talk a bit about the science.
Many animals have a thin reflective membrane at the back of their eyes, known as tapetum lucidum. This reflective membrane layer lies behind the iris and acts as a retroreflector, which means it reflects light back at the source. The presence of a tapetum lucidum gives nocturnal carnivores superb night vision.
This phenomenon is also known as eyeshine because the glowing eyes are simply reflections of the light source being aimed at the animal. Shining light directly on the face of an animal with a tapetum lucidum causes the eyes to glow.
The eyeshine color depends on the animal and can be red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, or green. The intensity of the eye glow varies between species, with some animals glowing brighter than the rest. The animals with the brightest eyeshine have excellent night vision because their eyes have fewer cones. Unfortunately, perfect night vision comes with limited color vision or complete color blindness.
Several other factors could influence the color of an animal’s eyeshine, including:
· The color of the light source (flashlight, camera, LED, or moonlight)
· The color of the animal’s eyes
· The size of the animal’s retina
· The distance between you and the animal
· Your position and light source angle
Dogs, house cats, big cats, alligators, and ferrets are some of the predators with eyes that reflect in the darkness. Interestingly, while owls have eyes that glow in the dark, they lack a tapetum lucidum in their eyes.
Animals With Red Glowing Eyes at Night
Some animals with characteristic red eyes at night include:
· Alligators and Crocodiles - The large eyeballs of alligators and crocodiles glow fiery red in the dark, making them easy to identify. If you’re near a river, lake, or swamp in an area that these creatures live in, take extra caution if you see red eyes in the dark.
· Owls – Owls are nocturnal birds with big eyes that glow red or orange after dark.
· Red fox - Foxes have red glowing eyes with perpendicular pupils.
· Rabbits - A rabbit’s eyes will exhibit a light red tone when you shine a light on them.
· Bigfoots & Skunk Apes – Reported to have red glowing eyes
EYESHINE - COLOR GUIDE CHART
Horse, Woodchuck, Pine Marten, Dog
Badger, House Cat, Sheep, Black-footed Ferret, Bullfrog
Flammulated Owl, American Badger, Deer, Elk, Flying Squirrel, Tiger, Walleye
Great Horned Owl, Cattle, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Bobcat, Panther, Raccoon, Chinchilla
Alligators/Crocodiles, Owls (Barn, Barred, Saw-Whet, Snowy, Long-Eared, Screech), Woodcock, Nighthawk, Black Bear, Gray/Red Fox, River Otter, Seals, Opossum, Lagomorphs (Rabbits, Hare, Etc.), Porcupine