Are coyotes eyes red at night?

Answered by Edward Huber

Coyotes are known for their remarkable night vision, which is enhanced by a unique feature known as eyeshine. While their eyes do not appear red at night, they do exhibit a fiery white glow when illuminated by a light source. This is due to a layer of tissue called the tapetum lucidum, which is present in the eyes of many nocturnal animals.

The tapetum lucidum acts as a reflective surface behind the retina, allowing light that enters the eye to be bounced back and reabsorbed by the photoreceptor cells. This enhances the animal’s ability to see in low light conditions by maximizing the available light. When a light source, such as a flashlight or car headlights, shines directly into a coyote’s eyes, the tapetum lucidum reflects the light back, creating the appearance of a glowing white or yellowish white color.

It is important to note that the exact color and intensity of eyeshine can vary among different species. For example, wolves and domestic dogs also display a similar fiery white eyeshine. However, the color of a bobcat’s eyeshine is typically yellowish white, while a bear’s eyes may exhibit a fiery orange glow.

Eyeshine is not unique to mammals; it is also observed in certain reptiles and amphibians. Some species of owls, for instance, have bright orange eyeshine, while snakes often display a greenish eyeshine.

Having had the opportunity to observe coyotes in the wild at night, I can attest to the striking and eerie appearance of their glowing eyes. On several occasions, while hiking in remote areas, I have encountered coyotes crossing my path or watching from a distance. Their glowing eyes pierce through the darkness, creating a captivating and somewhat intimidating sight.

While coyotes’ eyes do not appear red at night, they do exhibit a fiery white eyeshine. This phenomenon is attributed to the presence of the tapetum lucidum, a reflective tissue that enhances their night vision. By reflecting and maximizing available light, coyotes, along with other nocturnal animals, are able to navigate and hunt effectively in low light conditions.