Eye for an eye?
Was your first thought..."Is this coyote missing an eye?" Mine was too!
Wait...okay, what actually makes animal's eyes glow at night when we shine a light on them? The glow, or eyeshine, is a result of a reflective layer behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum. Essentially, this layer effectively increases the amount of light reflected in the eye which enhances an animal's vision once it gets dark. We humans are not equipped with this awesome adaptation, which could have helped you not to bang your toe on dresser when you're trying to navigate your room in the dark.
So, what is going on here with this coyote? Well, there could be many things that are resulting in one eye not reflecting light. A simple, and common cause is that this coyote has a lazy eye. The slightest change in eye position can cause the light to be reflected in a totally different direction, thus not being redirected back toward the camera. Some other causes can be related to eye disorders or infection.
Is he/she going to be alright? Firstly, we cannot pinpoint the cause of the lack of eyeshine without being able to examine the animal. However, if we look at the body condition of this coyote, we can see that it appears healthy and that whatever the cause of the lack of eyeshine is, it does not seem to be impacting the coyote's ability to hunt and gather food. Hopefully we will get more photos of this beautiful coyote in the coming months and can keep an eye on it!
Laken Ganoe is a PhD student at the University of Rhode Island studying fisher ecology across the state of Rhode Island. She loves sharing her findings and research updates in an informative but comical way.