Do Deer Have Eyelids? (Yes. They Do)

Deer are among the most beautiful animals in the wild. They have large eyes that are the first to see if you set your eyes on their head. Among the many questions is, do deer have eyelids? 

Deer have unique characters that most people admire. Most of the characters need close attention to identify. While it’s hard to spend time checking for the tiniest character on deer, we’re making the work easier for you.

Wonder no more; in this article are answers to the burning questions concerning deer you probably want answers. 

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Do Deer Have Eyelids?

Yes, deer have eyelids. However, they have three eyelids, unlike most animals in the wild. They have lower and upper eyelids and an inner eyelid made of a nictitating membrane. The nictitating membrane provides an additional protective layer for the deer’s eyes and helps keep them wet without blinking.

There are other animals that have three eyelids, like deer. They include horses, camels, polar bears, dogs and cats. It’s rare to find these animals closing their eyes because of the extra eyelid that performs the function of the other two eyelids.

Do Whitetail Deer Have Eyelids?

Like the other deer, whitetail deer have three eyelids to help them make their eyes wet. The two outer eyelids help it close its eyes when sleeping while the inner nictitating membrane helps create a moist condition of the eyes. It’s rare to find a deer closing its eyes, but it does so to rest like human beings. 

Do Deer Have Pupil?

Deer have pupils. Their pupils are horizontally elongated, unlike ours, which are circular. You’ll find the horizontal pupil to most of the preying species, according to research done by Marty Banks on animal vision science at UC Berkeley.

The pupils are horizontally in shape to allow more light to enter the pupil, unlike humans. The deer can also open their eyes wider in case there is low light for much light to enter. The eye’s horizontal pupil is very helpful in detecting movements at long ranges and helps the deer escape soon enough in case there is danger. 

Do Deer Blink?

Yes, deer blinks, but very rarely. It could take you an hour before you notice a deer can blink. The eyes have an extra inner eyelid made of a nictitating membrane that helps make the pupil wet. 

Deer will blink in case of a fly standing on the eyelids. So it’ll blink to scare off the fly. And also, if the deer crosses a dusty place, it’ll blink to clean its eyes.

Like most animals in the wild, blinking is important for the optimal functioning of the eyes. The main function of the outside eyelids of all animals, including humans, is to help blink and close their eyes where necessary. 

Do Deer Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Deer can sleep with their eyes open. It can be very difficult to notice they are sleeping when you come across them. They sleep every day and during daylight, and there could be a chance you’ve come across a sleeping deer, but you didn’t notice. 

Sleeping is important for every creature on land and sea. Some just become inactive with their eyes wide open, like the deer and many others, while others close their eyelids. 

For animals like deer, sleeping with their eyes open helps them detect any light movement across them. The detection helps them be aware of any approaching predator since they live where most animals prey on them. 


Why Do Deer Die With Their Eyes Open?

There are so many reasons deer die with their eyes open. One possible reason could be the sudden death experience from shock or trauma, which may cause muscles holding the eyelids to relax, thus making the eyes stay open. There are other reasons like human acts like vehicle collisions and hunting that cause sudden death of deer and other factors like diseases and predation.

Neurodegenerative disease is another reason behind the open eyes when a deer dies. The disease affects the levator palpebrae superioris muscle. The muscle helps keep the eyelid open.  

Another reason is the stiffening disorder of the muscles when a deer dies can make the muscle contraction that makes the eyelid open. Remember that all the factors may depend on each other, and at times more than one factor can cause the eyelid to open for a dead deer. 

For every deer that die, the muscles help close and open the eyelids relax, thus making the eye open.  Such a thing can happen without any external factor. The eyelid may stay open without any help. 

Do Deer Have Good Eyesight?

Yes, deer have good eyesight to help them have a wider view and run away from danger like that of predatory animals. Good eyesight is due to the presence of a horizontal shape pupil that allows more light to enter the pupil. Unlike the circular pupil in the human eye, the horizontal pupil in deer helps them even see in the dark.

There are also other reasons for boosting deer eyesight. Deer can open their eyes wider, thus allowing more light to enter the pupil. Therefore, they can notice any movement around them, even when sleeping with their eyes open. 

Another thing is the ability of the pupil to adjust its size depending on the light concentration of the surrounding. It performs like a human pupil. These pupils are best because they protect the eye from becoming short-time blind from high light concentration. 

What Animals Don’t Have Eyelids?

Many animals have no eyelids but possess very exceptional eyesight. Below are some animals that do not have eyelids.


Tarsier is a small animal in the primate family, and most people know it for its large peepers. They have large eyes, unlike other animals of the same size. The eyeballs are as large as its brain. The Tarsier eyes cannot rotate in the sockets. To make them see their surroundings, they have an exceptional adaptation of the ability of the neck to rotate at an angle of 180 degrees.


Have you come across a chameleon and observed its eyesight? What did you notice? A chameleon can independently rotate its eyes without blinking because it has no eyelids. Chameleon eyes can rotate at an angle of 360 degrees. 

The eyelids are fused and occupy the entire eyeball, only leaving the pupil. The eyelids have muscles that allow rotation of the pupil for wider vision. 

Mantis Shrimp 

Mantis Shrimp is among the animals that have complex visual systems. Mantis Shrimp possess 12 color receptors, unlike humans, which only have three color receptors. Although that isn’t enough, their eyes can detect ultraviolet, polarized and infrared light. They can rotate their eyes independently like those of a chameleon. Their eyes can rotate at an angle of 70 degrees.  


Gecko has unusual eyes. A gecko pupil is vertical and has a series of pinholes, unlike that of humans, which is circular. Geckos’ pupils widen at night to allow more light to enter the pupil. 

Because they do not have eyelids, they have intricate and detailed eye patterns helping the eyelids camouflage. And because they cannot blink, they normally clean their eyes using their tongues

How Smart is Deer Vision in the Dark?

Deer have exceptional eye vision that helps them see objects at long ranges. Their pupil is horizontal/oval, which performs as a camera’s aperture, and they also have a high concentration of rods. 

They also have a tissue of membrane that helps in magnifying light. The tissue is called tapetum lucidum. When you direct light on deer’s eyes, you’ll see them glow. The mirror-like tissue of the membrane helps them possess a glowing character. 

How Many Colors Do Deer See?

Deer’s eyes can see middle (green) and short wavelength (blue) colors. Deer can see colors, but not as we do. Deer’s pupil is very sensitive to long wavelength colors like orange and red. Therefore, deer are red-orange color blind. 

Among the top researchers who found the color blindness of deer is Brian Murphy, the CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. The professor carried out the research at the University of Georgia. They passed varied light wavelengths across the eyes of a sedated deer and measured brainstem responses.

Although deer are color blind, their eyesight is sharp, unlike that of humans. They can see long ranges in the dark and sleep with their eyes open. 

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A deer is among the blessed animals of the wild, possessing three eyelids, two outer eyelids, and an inner eyelid called the nictitating membrane, which helps maintain the eye wet. Deer also have a horizontal pupil that allows much light to enter the eye and boosts its vision in the dark.

The people also can open depending on the light concentration. The eyes can also open wider in the dark to allow more light to enter the eye. Therefore, a deer can detect any light movement in the dark and run if there is any danger. 

Disclaimer: This blog should not be considered as being professional pet medical advice. The content published on this blog is for informational purposes only. Please always consult with a licensed and local veterinarian for medical advice.

About Shaun Clarke

Shaun is passionate about pets and animals, especially dogs, cats, and rabbits. He owns a dog and a couple of cats too. He loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries and shares a strong bond with animals. When he is not writing, he loves to do a barbecue in the backyard with his family and friends.