How to Identify Animal Eyes At Night By Flashlight?

Last Updated on May, 2024

In the wild, safety is important (especially at night). Predators are out for hunting, and many other animals are roaming around too. 

In the dark, it’s very tough to determine what is there. Interestingly, you can determine what animal is there by their eyeshine and take the necessary steps. 

In this article, I will share an in-depth guide on identifying animal eyes at night by flashlight and ensuring your safety. 

So, let’s get into it! 

Shall we? 

Quick Summary

The five key factors to follow when identifying an animal based on eyeshine are:

  1. The color of the eye
  2. The shape of the eye
  3. The shape of the eyelid
  4. Orientation of slit pupil (eye movement)
  5. Vision and angle

There are five primary colors of eyeshine that animal eyes can emit: white, blue, yellow, red, and green.

It is possible to identify an animal by its eyeshine using a flashlight, but it is important to also consider other factors such as size, shape, and movement.

Can You Identify Animal Eyes at Night Using a Flashlight?

a human with flashlight and a cat Eyes at Night

Yes, you can! 

Identifying an animal through eyeshine is a cool skill to have. 

And, it’s more important for your safety. So, in order to identify an animal through the eyeshine, here are five key factors you should follow: 

  • The color of the eye 
  • The shape of the eye 
  • The shape of the eyelid 
  • Orientation of slit pupil (eye movement) 
  • Vision and angle 

In the rest of the article you’ll learn more about it.

So, keep reading! 

Why Do Animals’ Eyes Shine at Night? 

an animal's eye at night

When we see something, all the information comes to us through light. 

Then it gets into the retina, where the photoreceptor absorbs and immediately transfers it to the brain.

On the other hand, some animals have a layer of reflective membrane just behind the retina, tapetum lucidum

The tapetum lucidum reflects towards the light source, increasing light on the photoreceptor and assuring better night vision. 

This way, some animals can see better in the dark than others. 

So, because of the reflective layer, aka tapetum lucidum, animal’s eyes shine.

Why People’s Eyes Don’t Shine at Night? 

I think you’ve already guessed it! 

The human eye doesn’t have the reflective layer called tapetum lucidum. That’s why it doesn’t shine at night. 

The eyeshine only occurs because the reflective layer throws the light back to the light source. 

As there is no reflective layer in human eyes, it doesn’t reflect towards the light source, and that’s why the human eye doesn’t shine. 

Why Does Confusion Occur While Identifying Animal Eyes? 

confused man and animals eyes

The tapetum lucidum isn’t only a portion of the eye; instead, it’s a lot more than that. 

The tapetum lucidum works more like a defensive mechanism that animals like cattle and deer use to detect predators and save themselves. 

The beauty of nature is that the tapetum lucidum in predators (like cats and dogs) gives better visibility at night to hunt. 

When you are trying to identify animal eyes, there are a few confusions that can lead to misidentification. 

And, the misidentification happens because of a few confusions. These are- 

  • The color of the light source (like moonlight or flashlight)
  • The size of the animal retina 
  • The position
  • Angle of the light source 
  • The distance between the animal and you

In my opinion, looking for only eyeshine can be confusing sometimes. We should also look at the movement, behavior, and habitat.

Eyeshine Chart 

When you try to identify animal eyes at night, there are five eyeshine colors you’ll mostly notice. Which are: 

  • White 
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Red 
  • Green

Now here is a chart of eye shine charts of 31+ animals. Give it a look! 

Flying Squirrel
American Badger
Pine Marten
Mountain Lion

Animals With White Eyeshine

Tiger's White Eyeshine

Several animals have white eyes (like tigers, deer, etc.) The shine varies like the deer have bright white eye shine, whereas a tiger’s eye isn’t that glossy. 

That’s why spotting a tiger at night is quite difficult. 

Animals With Blue Eyeshine

an animal's blue eyeshine

Animals with blue eyeshines are mostly cats, dogs, and horses. 

We mostly see blue eyeshines in the dark in cats’ and dogs’ eyes (as they’re the most closest animals to humans). 

However, animals with blue eyeshines aren’t that dangerous to humans.

Animals With Yellow Eyeshine 

Animal with yellow eyeshine looks really dangerous. 

In this category, you’ll see dangerous animals like panthers, mountain lions, and bears. 

But, there are other friendly animals with yellow eyeshines available like cattle, cats, and raccoons. 

The panther is unique. This cat-shaped animal has golden (sometimes greener) shiny eyes. Despite being aggressive, they mostly don’t attack humans.

The ratio of getting attacked by a bear or mountain lion is much higher than the panther.

Panther's yellow eyeshine

Animals With Red Eyeshine

When it comes to animals with red eyeshines, owls, rabbits, and crocodiles are the group of animals that comes to mind. 

Did you know! If you photograph human eyes in the dark, they’ll look red because of blood vessels. 

Rabbit’s eyes aren’t visible enough in dark (unless you point a light source at them). Sometimes it also looks orange. 

The most dangerous one is alligators and crocodiles. With big shiny red eyes, they look horrible at night.

So, leave that place ASAP if you are near a river and see something like this near you at night.

rabbit's red eyeshine

Related article: Will a Flashlight Scare an Owl?

Animals With Green Eyeshine

dog's green eyeshine

Foxes, sheep, dogs, and cats mostly have green eyeshines. These animals are mostly not harmful to humans. 

I guess one thing you have already noticed is that cats and dogs have different and multiple eyeshines. 

How to Identify Animal Eyes at Night by Flashlight? Step-By-Step Guideline 

a man with a headlamp and a animal eyeshine

Though in the woods, identifying animal through their eyes are adventurous, but it’s highly dangerous too. 

And, if you are not an expert, avoid going into the wood at night alone. 

So, here are a few steps you should follow while identifying animal eyes. 

  • Use a high-quality flashlight and get a lens cap for the flashlight. I mostly prefer and recommend using a headlamp as it provides better visibility and zero hassle. 
  • When you hear any sound or movement, try to figure out the animal’s eyeshine and then check its eye, body shape, and other factors I’ve mentioned above properly. 
  • Focus on the size of the eye, eye shape and size, eyelid shape and size, and slit pupil concentration properly. 
  • Try to get a visual of the pupil in a parallel pattern. 
  • Look into trees to find owls and other nightbirds. 

If you’re a hunter, check out the best blood-tracking flashlights and best-hunting flashlights on the market. (MUST HAVE!)


Identifying animal eyes at night in the wild is a lifesaving skill. It’ll help you to stay alert, and if there’s any serious predator that harms humans, you can take the necessary steps. 

However, don’t rely on the eye color only; look for other aspects too. It is because eye color isn’t constant; you will always find varieties.

So, stay safe and cautious when you are in the wood. 


Animals’ eyes reflect light at night due to the presence of the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer behind the retina which reflects light back towards the source.

No, animal eye color remains the same at night, however eye-shine may appear to change due to the position and color of the light source.

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Dillon Morrison
I have been involved in the flashlight community since 2007. My brother has a flashlight shop from where I have tested and reviewed more than 600+ different types of flashlights. You can find more about me here.

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