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Caught in the Headlights? Experts Explain Deer-Cam UFO

A spooky trail-camera picture showing a pair of lights looming over a deer's head has generated lots of questions about UFOs over the past week. Now the folks who manufacture the camera that took the picture say they know the true answer to the mystery.

"It helps when you look at thousands of these things," said Boyd Barnett, who handles marketing and advertising at Alabama-based Moultrie Products.

He and others at Moultrie say the lights seen in the picture are actually the reflections of the deer's eyes, bouncing around inside the infrared camera.

Image: Deer cam`
A trail-camera picture shows a deer's head with two lights and a ghostly haze hanging above it. Representatives of the company that made the camera say the spooky apparition is actually a distorted image of the deer and its eyes, reflected as part of a phenomenon known as blowback.Rainer Shattles

"The big clue is that the UFO is lined up symmetrically over the deer, where the eyes would be," Moultrie brand manager Bart Stephens told NBC News. The photo is so overexposed that it looks as if the deer is looking out toward the "lights," but it's actually looking right into the camera. The ghostly haze in the picture is also part of the effect.

A side view from a different trail camera shows what could well be the same deer, illuminated by the first camera's infrared beam.

Rainer Shattles, who placed both those cameras on his wooded property in Jackson County, Miss., told NBC News he's not fully convinced. He pointed to other pictures that appear to show a shape like a flying saucer up in the trees. A skeptic might try to explain away such effects as lens flare, but Shattles insists there's something strange going on.

"If it's a government drone, coming through that area at night, they need to speak up," he. "But they're not going to say anything."

Image: Saucer
A portion of one of Rainer Shattles' trail-camera pictures shows what appears to be a saucerlike shape up in the trees, highlighted by a red circle.Rainer Shattles

Barnett and Stephens said their company is getting more reports like Shattles', in part due to the rapidly rising popularity of automatically triggered trail cameras. Shattles uses the cameras to keep track of the wildlife in his woods, but others have been known to look for more exotic quarry.

"One guy sent us a picture and said, 'Can you please verify that this is Bigfoot?'" Barnett recalled. "I had to tell him, 'What you have here is the ear of a raccoon, very close to the camera.'"

Whatever the deer-cam apparitions turn out to be, Barnett and Stephens are glad the resulting hubbub is focusing attention on their products — so glad that they're sending the Shattles family a complimentary assortment of Moultrie camera gear.

Tip o' the Log to WLOX in Biloxi, Miss.