A haunting close-up photo of some creature captured by a wildlife camera in North Carolina has intrigued social media with the possibility it could be otherworldly.
The image, posted June 17 by North Carolina’s Candid Critters, shows something in the dark with hollow black eyes appearing to peek curiously into the camera. It was taken March 2 at an undisclosed location in the woods of N.C.
“Critter Quiz Time,” says the state’s post. “What species can be seen in the photo below?”
More than one person suggested it was an alien, particularly if you rotate the image 90 degrees. Such responses seem based on the image’s similarity to classic Hollywood depictions of aliens, including the oversized dark eyes.
“Alien with a black bandanna over its face,” posted Dina Dechmann on the N.C. Candid Critters Facebook page.
“Grey Alien (OBVIOUSLY!),” wrote Lane Batot.
“Somebody getting the camera set up....or (a) bigfoot baby,” commented Dena Burrows.
More down-to-earth guesses include a “cat sniffing the camera,” an owl, or an opossum.
Officials with Candid Critters say they believe it’s “a house cat, looking up close and personal at one of our trail cameras.” How they know wasn’t made clear, but such mysteries have been solved in the past by looking for an animal that appeared in front of the camera just before (or after) the photo was taken.
“That’s what you claim! I still vote alien,” posted Dina Dechmann on the program’s Facebook page.
“What’s a house cat doing in the middle of the woods?” added Anthony Padilla.
The program has a history of capturing surprising images, including some that can’t be easily identified. However, all the mysteries have so far been solved with sensible explanations.
In one case, photos of a mysterious bouncing light in the middle of the forest turned out to be a spider spinning its web. And photos of what some believed to be the mythical chupacabra “devil dog” were explained away as diseased animals with mange.
The program’s mission is to uncover little-known details about the distribution of mammals in the state, including the spread of invasive species. It currently has cameras deployed on private and public land in all 100 counties in the state, each one set off by motion sensors.
Partners in the program include N.C. State University, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the State Library of N.C. and the Smithsonian.