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An animal screaming at night might sound like a real horror movie is being filmed outside your house. If you are woken up by screaming then it may be a fox.

Foxes can be heard screaming during the night. A male fox will scream to attract a mate and females will bark back. Foxes scream to communicate with other foxes and are also used to warn away predators.

If you want to know more about these noises they make, please read on for more details.

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Why do foxes scream infographic

What Does A Fox Scream Sound Like?

A fox’s piercing scream is high-pitched and monosyllabic. A fox’s scream stops and starts in 3 to 10-second intervals. The screaming noise can be loud and terrifying, especially if you don’t see the fox.

Foxes are known for their shrill scream that sounds like someone crying for help. It can be very frightening to hear a red fox scream when lying in bed at night, and many have described it as a woman’s scream. Others describe the red fox as sounding like a human baby.

People sometimes call the police after hearing a fox scream, thinking someone is in distress. If you see a fox in your yard often, then the chances are you will hear them screaming during breeding season.

Urban foxes are easier to hear in winter. This is not because foxes are more vocal during this time of the year, but because their screams travel further because of the cold air and lack of vegetation.

Do Foxes Sound Like A Woman Screaming?

If you have been woken up late at night by a terrifying scream, you may have thought it was a woman in distress. The sound is similar and can be very disorienting when disturbed from your sleep. However, if you normally see foxes in your yard, it is probably just a fox.

Several Police Officers I have talked to have said that they have all been out to areas after the public has heard a frightening scream, only to see two foxes nearby when they get there.

During Mating

The breeding season is at its peak in January but occurs from late winter to early spring, and it is common for red foxes to make a high-pitched scream to find a mate during mating season. The male screams and a female will bark back. Attracting a mate is one of the most common reasons that foxes scream.

Male foxes use their vocalizations to signal their readiness to mate. The screams can convey information about their fitness, health, and overall reproductive fitness to potential mates. Screams are short and explosive and used to warn the male rivals to stay away from their mate.

The vixen lets the male know she is ready to mate. A bark often answers these screams. Female foxes are also known to scream but this usually happens when they are mating.

Vixens are most receptive to fertilization for about three days in midwinter so you will often hear the male scream during this time to attract the female. 

A vixen may rebuff an amorous male with snarls and yelps before the male is successful. Mating occurs between the pair, tail to tail, in a tied position. Copulation can take around 20 minutes or longer, during which the female continues to scream. When the mating is over, the vixen prepares a place for her spring litter.

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Foxes screaming


Foxes are intelligent animals and often communicate and cooperate. Many assume that foxes scream because they are fighting or screaming in pain, but foxes communicate with each other in this way.

Foxes have complex social structures, and screams can play a role in coordinating activities and interactions among individuals in the area. Foxes may use vocalizations to signal their movements, convey information about available food sources, or coordinate group behaviors.

Fox screams can mark territorial boundaries, helping to define areas that belong to certain individuals or groups. This can reduce the likelihood of direct confrontations and minimize conflicts.

Foxes also produce a range of vocalizations to alert others of potential dangers, such as predators or human presence. These warning calls can help members of a fox group avoid threats and maintain safety.

Foxes usually live alone but will communicate loudly, often using screams, when they want to locate another family member.

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Territorial Warnings

Foxes are highly territorial, and when a male senses another male nearby, it will scream to warn them off. Another reason foxes cry during nighttime is to protect their young. If they feel that intruders are invading their territory, they will shout to ward them off.

When screaming at intruders, both the male and female will join in. Foxes know to stay away and that they are in the wrong territory. If this does not deter the predator, the male may attack.

Fox screams can mark territorial boundaries, helping to define areas that belong to certain individuals or groups. This can reduce the likelihood of direct confrontations and minimize conflicts.

Foxes communicate using sound, smell, and body language.  Find out more here.

Foxes Scream When Threatened Or Shocked

When foxes perceive a threat from a predator or another potential danger, they may emit loud screams as an alarm call to warn other foxes in the area.

Foxes can be startled by sudden human movements or noises, especially if they are not used to human activity. In such cases, they might produce vocalizations that can be mistaken for screams.

Loud and sudden noises, such as thunder, fireworks, or other disturbances, can startle foxes and cause them to vocalize loudly.

Foxes might scream when they are confronted by other aggressive animals, such as larger predators or territorial rivals. The screams can serve as a means to deter the aggressor and signal distress.

If a fox feels trapped, cornered, or in a situation where escape is difficult, it might scream as a sign of fear, distress, or a plea for help.

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Other Vocalizations

Foxes are capable of making a lot of sounds similar to dogs. However, foxes have a higher pitch, which is why our ears hear them more than most animals.

Foxes can be especially noisy during the mating season. However, during other times of the year, they go mostly unnoticed. Foxes make around thirty different sounds that they use as a means of communicating with each other.

Male foxes marking their territory are known to make a triple-bark sound. Foxes also make a loud a-woo howl that sounds similar to a dog howling.

Foxes growl when they are ready to fight another over territory or a female.  When willing to surrender to a dominant fox, they whine and whimper. Foxes making these sounds are being submissive.

A fox cub uses a whimpering sound to let its parents know when they are hungry or cold. Cubs often use these sounds to bring attention to themselves.

Foxes usually bark when they are suddenly surprised. They do this to alert other foxes in the area that something is wrong.

When a fox feels threatened, it will growl while taking a defensive posture. This posture will let other animals know they are willing to fight.

However, the most common sound you hear from a fox is a scream. All species of foxes can scream, but the red fox scream is one of the most common in urban areas.

Want to know more about how fox cubs learn? Find out here.

Do Foxes Scream During The Day?

Foxes are nocturnal animals, and most screams are heard during the night. However, foxes can be heard screaming during the day, although this is rare.  Foxes bark and scream when defending their territory, feeling threatened, or during breeding season.

They also make a sound called gekkering, a loud screech used as an alarm call. Foxes will also bark and growl when they are trying to communicate with each other.

Keeping Foxes Away From Your Home

Foxes are known for their screams at night, which can annoy homeowners. Although you will never stop them from screaming, there are steps you can take to prevent you from hearing them around your home.

One option is to use a repellent that contains predator urine or predator scents. This helps make the area less attractive to foxes and discourages them from entering your property.

Additionally, it is important to ensure your garden is not fox-friendly by removing potential food sources such as pet food and birdseed. These foods attract foxes and make them want to stay in your yard.

It may be necessary to take extra measures, such as putting up barriers or soundproofing materials around your property to reduce the noise levels from the foxes. With these methods, you can help keep foxes away.

References And Further Reading:

The Hidden Life of Foxes by Adele Brand While this book focuses on the lives of foxes in the United Kingdom, it explores various aspects of fox behavior, including vocalizations and communication.

Urban Foxes by Stephen Harris and Phil Baker This book delves into the behavior of urban foxes, including their communication and interaction with humans.

Foxes of North America: The Gray Fox, Red Fox, Arctic Fox, Kit Fox, Swift Fox by Sy Montgomery This book offers information about various fox species found in North America, including details about their behaviors, communication, and vocalizations.

Foxes by Ludwig Wallendorf While this book does not exclusively cover fox vocalizations, it provides information about fox behavior, ecology, and interactions.