Ask The Biologist

Devil Deer!

Devil Deer!

By Bob Humphrey

If you see shining red eyes, should you run?

QUESTION: On my way to my stand one morning this last season, I saw a deer in my head lamp. The deer’s eyes were red. I’m 68 years old and have been hunting since I was 16. I’ve never seen a deer eyes shine red at night. Is there an explanation for this?– Daniel V.

ANSWER: The eyes of deer and other animals shine because the back of their retina has a layer called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back through photoreceptors (rods and cones) giving them better night vision. The reflected color is most often attributable to chemical composition of these structures, and tends to characteristic and somewhat diagnostic of a particular species.

For example, deer eyes typically reflect yellow while those of other species may reflect red, green, blue or orange. However, other things like the type, angle and intensity of light hitting the eye can also influence color. I wish I could offer more in the way of explanation, but there is not a lot of information available on the topic.

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Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd