Do Wolves Have Night Vision?

Wolves have superior night vision as compared to most other animals. Wolves have good eyesight at night thanks to Tapetum lucidum, which is an additional layer of tissue they have on their eyes that enables them to see better in the dark.

This additional layer of tissue increases the amount of light that comes to their photoreceptors, enabling them to see better in the dark, although with a slightly blurry vision. Tapetum lucidum is not unique to wolves alone, and we can see it with many other mammals that can see well at night, including cats, dogs, and some spider species.

Do Wolves Have Night Vision

That’s why the eyes of wolves might shine at night, especially if you direct light against their eyes. This behavior of eyes is also more commonly seen with our pets like dogs and cats.

You’ve probably already seen the shiny eyes of your dog or cat in one of your photos – this is the typical eyeshine that comes from the Tapetum lucidum. Wolves also share this mechanism.

Can Wolves See in the Dark?

Yes, wolves can see in the dark several times better than we do, and also much better than some animals of prey in their habitats. That’s thanks to Tapetum lucidum. 

But a wolf will not only rely on its eyesight to find its bearings at night. Instead, it will use a combination of senses to detect and intercept stimuli around them. One of the most important receptors they have is their whiskers, which enable them to get a better feel for the objects they touch.

They will also use their smell, which is also more powerful than the smell of other animals. They’re able to smell animals from miles away.

All of this enables the wolf to have an advantage over several animals during the night. They can see much better than deer can, for instance, which is an instant advantage as they go out on a hunt.

Read Also: Why do Wolves have Yellow Eyes?

How Well Do Wolves See at Night?

It is estimated that wolves will be able to see several times better than humans can, although their night vision is not as powerful as that of owls. Their night vision is stronger than ours for about 40-50% and several percent better than that of most other animals out there at night, giving them a slight advantage.

Tapetum lucidum affects the photoreceptors of a wolf in such a way that they translate the darkness into light, which gives them a chance to make sense of the darkness around them and be able to see their surroundings.

Pair that with their other sensory mechanisms such as whiskers, smell, and strong hearing, and wolves are able to move around at night with little problems. They are also able to hunt other animals at night because they have stronger senses and better night vision.

Tapetum lucidum doesn’t come without disadvantages, though. Wolves generally have a slightly more blurry vision than we do, which is further increased by tapetum lucidum. As an expense of having strong eyesight, they have a slightly more blurry sight at night. But it will still be strong enough for them to get around comfortably.

When compared to other animals’ night vision, a wolf’s night vision fits right below the top. Owls have the best night vision, while some wildcats are able to operate as well at night as they are able to operate during the day, thanks to their excellent night vision.

If you think about our eyesight at night, you might have already noticed that it takes some time for our eyes to adapt to the darkness. A wolf’s eyes do, too, but that span is much shorter. And even when our eyes do adapt, we’re only able to see shapes, and only if the stars are out.

Imagine that, but just amped several times – that’s how strong a wolf’s eyesight is at night. They’re able to clearly discern between objects around them, even though their eyesight will be a bit blurry.

Read Also: Are Wolves Nocturnal or Diurnal

Why Do a Wolf’s Eyes Shine at Night?

Wolves have this special layer on their eyes called Tapetum lucidum, which reflects when we shine the light towards their eyes. This mechanism allows them to translate darkness into light, and it also acts as a mirror that emits the shine back when the light hits it.

This is why a wolf’s eyes often appear yellow or red.

Normally during the day, wolves are able to see thanks to their photoreceptors, which will collect the information and relay the images to their brains, allowing wolves to see clearly during the day.

But at night, Tapetum lucidum might replace these photoreceptors when they intercept light, which then appears as though they have a mirror in their eyes. It acts as a mirror to bounce the light back again for a second try until the wolf is able to make sense of what their eyes are seeing.

This is also seen with most other mammals that have Tapetum lucidum, including our domestic cats and dogs. After all, you have probably been wondering why a cat’s eyes are shining when you take a picture of it. The reason is exactly the same as with wolves!

What Animal Has The Best Night Vision?

Owls have the most powerful night vision out of all animals. They have large eyes that are capable of receiving the darkness five times better than our eyes. Their eyesight is more powerful at night than it is during the day.

Some wild cat species also have a pretty strong night vision. They’re able to operate equally as well both during the night and during the day.

The next category is mammals like wolves and cats, as well as dogs. These animals have superior night vision as compared to most animals.

Read Also: How do Wolves Sleep?


To conclude, wolves have good night vision thanks to Tapetum lucidum, a mechanism that enables them to translate darkness into light. Their vision is slightly blurrier at night, but also much better than most other animals in their habitat.

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