Can Coyotes See Red Light?

Coyotes can be both nocturnal and diurnal depending on their environment. For this reason, they have unique eyesight that allows them to use as much light from their surroundings as possible.

However, they don’t always take in the color of that light. Red light is one color that coyotes can not see, hence its use for coyote hunting.

Can Coyotes See Red Light?

Coyotes have trouble seeing red lights. However, they aren’t necessarily completely blind to these lights. If shone directly at them, these lights can emit a dull glow that is visible to these predators but they cannot see the color red at all.

The color red has a wavelength that is outside of the coyotes’ visible range of colors. As a result, light in this color can mask the intensity of the light.

Why Can’t Coyotes See Red Light?

Can Coyotes See Red Light?

Coyotes have trouble detecting red light because of their photoreceptors. Basically, their eyes are not made for seeing red light.

At the same time, these animals are active at night, thus limiting their ability to detect light in specific colors.

Coyote Photoreceptors

Coyotes have trouble seeing red light because of photoreceptors in their eyes. These photoreceptors are neurons in the eyes responsible for taking in light in various wavelengths and transmitting them to the brain to form images of what we see.

Simply put, everything we see is actually the reflection of a wave of light that is absorbed by our photoreceptors and translated by our brains.

There are two main kinds of photoreceptors: cone cells and rod cells.

Cone Cells

Cone cells are responsible for color perception as well as daylight vision. The type and density of these cells vary in each living thing. They thus are responsible for the different ways we visually perceive things.

In humans, there are three cone cells: red, blue, and green. These cones enable us to see wavelengths from 380 to 750 nanometers and their respective colors.

Colors and their wavelengths are illustrated in the table below.

Red620 to 750 nm
Orange590 to 620 nm
Yellow570 to 590 nm
Green495 to 570 nm
Blue450 to 495 nm
Violet380 to 450 nm

      *nm = nanometers

However, coyotes only have two cone cells: blue and yellow. This allows them to view the colors within the yellow and blue range much better than humans do.

However, it limits their ability to perceive color and gives them only dichromatic vision.

In other words, they are colorblind to specific colors, especially those with long wavelengths like red.

Red is the color with the longest wavelength on the visible spectrum and requires its own cone to be detected (red cone). Without it, animals such as the coyote can have trouble telling this color apart.

To add to their inability to detect this color, coyotes are nocturnal animals. They are used to moving around in low-light settings. Cone cells require ample light to function, thus further hindering their ability to detect colors altogether.

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Rod Cells

Structurally speaking, the coyote’s eyes consist of more rod cells. These cells are photoreceptors responsible for vision in dark or low light settings.

These photoreceptors are why these animals have such a great sense of sight despite being active at night when little to no light is available.

These cells dominate the coyote’s eyes and are greatly responsible for their overall vision. However, these cells cannot detect color in any way.

Any light received through these photoreceptors is viewed as black and white or grayscale images.

This characteristic of the coyote’s eyes, combined with the lack of the red cone cell altogether, allows hunters to bypass the coyote’s otherwise terrific vision by using red light sources.

Nocturnal Habits

Despite mostly being nocturnal animals, wild coyotes can still come out and do their business during the day.

However, those who live near human settlements tend to settle with going out at night to avoid conflict with humans and other potentially stronger predators.

In order to perceive color, you need ample amounts of light that you just can’t get at night. As a result, the coyotes’ nocturnal life does not expose them to enough light to perceive color altogether.

Thus, limiting their ability to detect the color red naturally.

What Do Coyotes See When Faced with the Color Red?

Can Coyotes See Red Light?

When faced with lights or items that are colored red, coyotes often see them in grayscale. The lighter the shade of red, the lighter the shade of gray.

If you were to shine a red light onto a coyote, there is still a great chance that it will react to your light. However, it won’t be because of the color as these predators lack the cone cell to detect the color red.

Instead, it will see it as a dull-colored, gray light. However, it can catch the intensity or brightness of the light. Sometimes it may even be seen as a dark shadow. 

Either way, shining a red light directly onto a coyote can still tip them off towards the presence of a lurking threat and cause this predator to retreat to safety.

Why is Red Light Great for Hunting Coyotes?

Because these predators have trouble recognizing them, red lights are the most popular choice of light for hunters going after coyotes and an alternative to night vision scopes.

Through these lights, you can illuminate a whole area with lesser chances of being spotted by these coyotes.

In addition to that, red lights are terrific for hunting predators such as the coyote because they are easily reflected off these animals’ eyes due to these animals’ tapedum lucidum.

This tissue reflects visible light back through the retina and gives coyotes a characteristic red eyeshine. This makes them easier to spot and catch.


Coyotes have incredibly keen senses. Despite not being able to perceive the color red and red light due to the lack of red cone photoreceptors, they are not entirely unable to detect them.

Regardless, these lights are still the best choice when hunting coyotes. While they are not completely fool-proof, they still work well enough to bypass this predator’s senses.

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