Why Do Foxes Scream at Night? (Answered)

If you’ve ever heard a frightening scream in the middle of the night that sounds like a screeching baby or woman in distress, it might be a fox. These mostly solitary animals typically live in underground dens in wooded areas and are very territorial. However, you might see a fox wandering on your property and some nights, their screams may sound too close for comfort.

So why do foxes scream at night? Are they hurt or trying to attack? The answer may surprise you. Read on to learn more about why foxes scream and other answers around hearing or seeing foxes at night.

Why do foxes scream at night?

Foxes bark and scream to communicate with each other and this interaction is more common during mating season. You’ll most likely hear a fox scream in the night when they are trying to attract a mate. Female foxes are also known to scream during breeding.

As unsettling as the sound is, they are typically not crying for help, angry, or fighting. However, sometimes a sharp, short scream with throaty growls could mean a male fox is warning other males to stay away. Both male and female foxes will also scream once they have cubs to let other foxes know to stay away from their territory.

Are foxes nocturnal?

Yes, foxes are nocturnal and this is why you are more likely to hear them scream at night. Foxes will typically come out of their dens around sunset and return before dawn to sleep throughout the daytime. They spend the nighttime hunting when there is less competition and distractions.

red fox at dusk

Having said this, some urban foxes have been seen scavenging for food during the day. This usually occurs when they are forced to adapt their hunting habits and leave the wooded areas to survive. Some foxes are also crepuscular, including coming out during cloudy days to find food. These animals have excellent hearing abilities to help them hunt and can hear up to 360 feet away!

How do you stop foxes from screaming?

You really can’t. Foxes live in groups and use screaming and barking as a way to communicate and defend their territory. There really is no way to prevent them from engaging in their natural habits near their dens or during mating season.

However, the calls are typically short-lived and only most obvious during mating season around January and February. You’re also most likely to hear the screams during the winter since sound can travel further distances in the cold.

Do foxes attack humans at night?

It is very uncommon for foxes to attack humans at night. The only time they may bite is in self-defense when they feel they have no route for escape. Despite their reputation, foxes prefer running away and avoiding fights unless you provoke them to defend themselves.

In fact, foxes are known to leave children or babies in prams unharmed when they come across them. Since children are less threatening to foxes, sometimes you may see young foxes try and play with children, but they will not attack for no reason. Be aware, though, that if you decide to feed or provide shelter to foxes, you can also change their habits. Some foxes that become more comfortable with humans can develop a bolder attitude.

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What to do if a fox approaches you at night?

Most of the times foxes will run away when they see you, so make sure you give them space and a clear escape route. However, if you do see a fox approaching you without running away, try to make some kind of loud presence.

You can clap your hands, yell, stomp your feet, or carry a whistle to encourage them to run away. As mentioned before, don’t make them feel trapped. Give them an escape route, so they don’t feel the need to bite you to defend themselves.

What attracts foxes to your yard?

The most common reasons you’ll find a fox wandering into your yard is for food and shelter. These animals are opportunistic hunters and will take risks to find meals or water sources. You can sometimes see them eating pet food, fruits and vegetables in gardens, or leftovers in your trash can. Foxes will also wander into your yard searching for the prey they hunt, including mice, birds, or chickens.

If you fertilize your garden with fertilizer that contains bonemeal, fish, or blood these smells can also attract foxes to your yard. You’ll want to switch to a plant-based fertilizer to avoid unwanted visits. When foxes are searching for shelter to create their dens, it is most likely under wooden constructions. This can be spaces under your house or shed.

What other sounds do foxes make?

While a fox scream is one of the most noticeable sounds they make, these animals can actually produce around 30 different sounds. You might have heard a fox before and didn’t even realize it. For example, they are known to:

  • Bark
  • Chatter, including a guttural chatter or gekkering
  • Produce a yow-wow-wow-wow similar to an owl
  • Make coughing and huffing noises
  • Cluck briefly

Conclusion

The two most common reasons you might hear foxes scream at night are to attract mates or defend their territories. This unsettling sound they use to communicate is really not a sign of danger for humans, even if it can be frightening to hear. If you do come across a fox approaching you at night, rest assured they are less likely to attack especially if you give them space for escape.