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Why Do Foxes Scream At Night?

An animal screaming at night might sound like a real horror movie is being filmed outside your house. It may be a fox, and I wanted to explain some of the reasons for the noise in this article.

Foxes can typically be heard screaming at night. A female fox will scream to attract a mate and while mating. Foxes also scream to communicate with other foxes and can also be 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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What Does A Fox Scream Sound Like?

A fox’s piercing scream is high-pitched and monosyllabic. You can hear them scream in sets, stopping and starting again in 3 to 10-second intervals. The screaming noise can be loud and terrifying, even though 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 you are likely to hear what many people say sounds like 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 an awful screaming in the dead of night. Urban foxes are easier to hear in winter. This is not because foxes are more vocal during this time of the year. 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. Even they say the sound is very similar, so if you hear a scream at night, try to make sure it isn’t a fox before calling the Police.

Why Do Foxes Scream At Night?

There are a few different reasons you may hear foxes at night, but the most common is during the mating season, when communicating, and as a warning cry.

Before and During Mating

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

The vixen lets the male know she is ready to mate. A bark, similar to a dog from the male, often answers these screams. Male foxes are also known to scream occasionally. This noise is short and explosive and is used to warn its rivals to stay away from their mate.

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When you hear a fox, it is generally because the breeding season has arrived. Vixens are most receptive to fertilization for about three days in midwinter. 

A vixen may rebuff an amorous male with snarls and yelps before the male is successful. However, if he is, the noises can continue even after mating, as the foxes sometimes lock together.

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.

To Communicate

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 usually live alone but will communicate loudly when they want to locate another family member.

Want to know how red foxes survive in winter? Find out here.

As A Territorial Warning

Foxes are highly territorial; when a male senses another male, it will yell 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.

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

When Frightened Or Shocked

Foxes yell when they are frightened or shocked. Foxes are preyed upon like other smaller animals on the food chain. Wolves and coyotes are some of the common predators of foxes.

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Foxes are similar to dogs in that they have various vocalizations. Dogs are known to bark but also make other kinds of sounds. Dogs can be heard howling, yelping, growling, and whining, along with other sounds.

Foxes are capable of making a lot of similar sounds. However, the sound of a fox is much higher in pitch than a dog’s, which is one reason we can often hear them over other 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, proclaiming 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 do not wish to be aggressive.

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 the other animal know they are willing to fight.

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.

Red foxes can be very vocal. They are widely known for their shrill screaming sound, which you generally hear during the night.

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 scream during the day in some areas, 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. If you hear screaming during the day, it might be a fox.

Are All Foxes Nocturnal?

Red foxes are creatures of the night and are generally nocturnal, meaning they hunt and forage at night, but gray foxes are often crepuscular and hunt and forage during dawn and dusk. Gray foxes may also be active day or night, depending on the season and food availability. In general, foxes tend to be more active at night due to competition from other animals, so they have adapted to become more comfortable in darkness. Foxes have also evolved to have excellent hearing, smell, and vision, allowing them to detect prey easier in low-light conditions.

How Do You Stop Foxes From Screaming?

Foxes are known for their noise at night, which can annoy homeowners. Although you will never stop them from screaming, as it is part of their mating ritual, there are steps you can take to prevent you from hearing them in your yard. 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 and prevent screaming at night.

References And Further Reading:

“The Fox: The Foxes of North America, Their Natural History and Conservation” by John L. David

“The Behavior of North American Mammals” by Edward A. Birney and James S. Findley

“Foxes, Wolves, and Wild Dogs of the World” by David Alderton “The Fox: A Biography of a Fox” by David Taylor