There’s a good chance you’ve heard that once in a time popular song about what foxes say. It’s a goofy song that gets stuck in your head easily, but it brings up a valid point! What sounds and noises do foxes make?
Foxes often sound similar to dogs, but they do give off distinctive sounds as well. Foxes give off a variety of sounds depending on whether they are happy, distressed, looking for a mate, or warning a predator. Foxes are known to bark, growl, yelp, laugh, and scream.
It might seem at times there is no purpose to a fox’s loud noise, but there is always a reason they are belting out a tune. We’ll look a little deeper into the different sounds and why they make them in this article. Let’s get started!
What Sounds do foxes make And Why?
Foxes Scream As A Way To Protect Their Territory
Foxes are nocturnal, so many of their sounds aren’t heard by humans. However, you may have been awoken by night by a strange sound and wondered what it was. A fox’s scream is likely the most distinguishable sound they make and it’s often in the middle of the night. It can be quite scary to hear it and be unaware of where it is coming from. In fact, it can be so blood-curdling that you may not know how to react.
A fox will scream loudly enough for all to hear if they feel threatened. Screaming is a way to tell predators and other foxes know they are encroaching on their territory. Foxes are incredibly territorial and will ensure they scream loud enough to ward off other foxes. If their warning scream is not effective, some foxes will attack.
Coyotes are the main predator of foxes, as they are fast enough to catch a runaway fox. Unfortunately, young foxes are no match for an encounter with a coyote and become easy prey.
In addition to other foxes and coyotes, the top predators for foxes are:
- Mountain Lions
Humans are also considered predators to foxes since they are hunted for their fur.
The scream can be quite piercing and alarming for a person to hear, but there is no reason to panic. However, if you happen to be outside and hear the scream, it’s best to head back indoors. A fox may be nearby and think you are trying to invade their territory.
The Humane Society of the United States reports that a fox is unlikely to approach a human unless they have been continuously fed by one. If you want to scare the fox off, make a few loud noises to keep the animal away.
Foxes Give A High-Pitched Howl As a Mating Call
The mating call of a fox is like none other. You may have been tempted to call for help after hearing the piercing sound.
If you’ve been awoken at night to a loud high-pitched howl, it’s likely a fox looking for a mate. Unfortunately, the howl can get quite loud and might jolt you right out of a slumber.
Foxes mate in January and give birth in March. While foxes are normally solitary animals, they do live in groups during the breeding season. So, once the new year comes, you’ll probably be hearing foxes a lot more.
Baby foxes are called “pups” and may stay together or eventually disperse once they are old enough to survive on their own. Males tend to travel further than females.
In addition, foxes are most active around 7 pm and midnight, and slowly start to decrease their activity as it gets closer to sunrise.
Typically the female fox (vixen) gives out the howl, and the male fox will respond with a bark. Foxes will also scream during mating, to ensure no other foxes try to take their mate.
The howl given out during mating season is often referred to as the “vixen’s screams” which can be made by either the male or female. If you hear the high-pitched howl, it’s no cause for alarm. Unfortunately, you might have to put a pillow over your ears to sleep, but otherwise, no action needs to be taken!
Foxes Use A Raspy Bark To Communicate
There’s a good chance you’ve heard the sound in the middle of the night and questioned exactly what kind of animal you were hearing.
Foxes bark for a multitude of reasons, including while playing with another fox or as a way to deter potential predators. The raspy bark is a way to tell other foxes to go away.
A fox can also distinguish the difference between the bark of a fox in their community versus a fox in another social group. This helps the fox identify whether they need to be on guard or not.
According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a fox’s raspy bark can go on repeatedly every 3-10 seconds. However, that doesn’t bode well if the fox is outside your bedroom window while trying to sleep. Talk about a noisy neighbor!
Foxes Give A “Wow Wow Wow” Sound When Approaching Another Fox
A fox will greet another fox with an interesting “wow wow wow” sound similar to that of a hooting owl. Foxes mimic a whole array of animals!
The University of Melbourne reports how foxes give off the unusual sound as they get closer to one another. While the sound is similar to a dog’s bark, it’s more high-pitched because of its smaller body size.
When the foxes get closer to one another, it almost sounds like two ducks clucking at one another. So, in one sound, they can sound like both an owl and a duck!
In addition, foxes give out unusual sounds if they sense something is wrong in their den and want to alert others. If you haven’t noticed, foxes repeat certain sounds for multiple situations which lends itself to the famous question of “what does a fox say?”.
Foxes Make a ‘Gekkering’ Sound In A Fight
In between screams, a fox may make a ‘gekkering’ sound if they are in a fight with another fox. But, what exactly does gekkering sound like?
Gekkering is a combination of yelps and howls and has a bit of a low rattling sound to it. You may even think you hear a parrot in the mix! In short, it’s an odd sound to hear.
An angry fox will stand on its hind legs with its mouth open. In addition, their ears will be erect and have raised whiskers. On the other hand, the submissive fox will slouch down to the ground.
When foxes fight, they are working towards establishing a hierarchy. Sounds like gekkering come in handy because foxes don’t always want to physically fight and use other methods, like noises, to display their dominance.
Finally, young cubs will also make the gekkering sound when playing with one another. Fighting amongst cubs is a way for them to practice their hunting skills and help develop muscle tone. Just like children, young cubs enjoy wrestling for fun. So, see if your kids can try their best gekkering impression!
Foxes Purr Or Whimper When They Are Relaxed
You probably haven’t had the chance to be around a relaxed fox, but if you did, you’d probably hear them purr. A mother will often purr as her babies are cuddled up against her, which sounds adorable.
The purr is very similar to that of a cat and is given off for the same reason. The soft sound is a light vibration and can be heard if you are up close to a fox.
While a fox can purr, it is not as loud as a cat and unless you are up close, you probably wouldn’t hear it.
A mother fox will also whimper at her young to soothe them. On the flip side, young foxes will whimper at their mother when they need something, like food or warmth.
Foxes Squeal When They Are Excited
We’ve discussed sounds foxes make when they are unhappy with another animal, but what about when they are excited?
A fox can produce a pseudo laugh when it’s feeling playful. While foxes don’t laugh like humans, the elated sound they release when happy is pretty adorable.
Most foxes laugh from years of being domesticated, so you probably won’t catch a laughing fox in the wild. Since you might not get the chance to see the amusing sight in real life, you can check out a video of a laughing fox here.
Physical Ways Foxes Communicate
Foxes belong to the Canidae family – the same one as dogs, wolves, and coyotes. The omnivorous animals are exceptional at surviving a variety of weather conditions, protecting their babies, and finding food.
In addition, foxes are smarter than most dog breeds, although that still doesn’t mean you should keep one as a pet. There are domesticated foxes, but it is a wild animal, and not recommended as a house pet.
While foxes are closely related to dogs, they resemble cats in their sleek bodies and long tails. As with most animals, foxes have various methods of communication.
Foxes will use body language as a method of communication. Similar to dogs, a fox will change their posture and positioning of ears and tail when they sense danger.
In addition, foxes will mark their territory to let others know it’s their turf. A fox will mark their territory using any of the following methods.
- Foxes will rub their bodies along areas they wish to mark.
- Foxes will use their feces and urine to mark a specific territory. I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to invade their space if you knew it was lined with their feces and urine. Right?
Foxes learn from experience and can adapt well to most environments. You may find a fox under your deck or in a backyard shed. During cold months, foxes look for warmer places to shelter but can rely on their thick coat of fur for protection.
What To Do If You Hear A Fox Near Your House
While foxes appear cute, you should never approach one if you see them around your house. (Or anywhere for that matter.) Of course, you also don’t want to make a practice of feeding foxes.
If you accidentally encounter a fox, it’s vital to stay calm. Even though you are larger than the fox, a startled fox may try to attack.
In addition, while foxes don’t typically target cats or dogs, you will want to be observant if you have seen foxes on your property. Anything smaller than a fox is easy prey, so it’s better to be watchful of your pets when they are outside. Small animals like guinea pigs should always be kept inside.
If you have chickens on your property, you will want to take appropriate measures to keep them safe. Always bring your chickens in at night to prevent foxes from getting ahold of them.
You can learn more about keeping foxes away from your chickens here.
To keep foxes away permanently, you should:
- Keep your garbage cans covered. A fox will gladly go through your trash looking for a meal. It’s crucial to keep lids on all outside garbage cans.
- Deter foxes with unpleasant scents. While humans might not mind them, there are 4 smells foxes hate, and by sprinkling them around your house, you can help keep the foxes away. To learn more, check out our article on the 4 Surprising Smells That Foxes Can’t Stand.
- Use a motion light to keep foxes away. The Amico 3-Head Motion Sensor Light will activate when any motion is detected with 180 degrees swiveling and reaches up to 75 feet. A fox will likely run off once the lights go on, and therefore will help keep the animal away from your house.
- Install a fence. Putting a fence around your yard is the easiest way to keep foxes away. It’s also a great way to keep your pets safe from the potential encounter of a fox. Foxes can dig under a fence, so if you notice holes, ensure you fill them in. You can also put up a Doniks Dig Animal Protection Fence to prevent foxes from making their way into your yard.
- Contact a professional for advice. Sometimes pest problems are out of our control. For example, you might do all the measures above but still find foxes encroaching on your yard. Contacting a wildlife pro may be just what you need!
For more in-depth information about what to do when you see a fox in your yard, take a look at our step-by-step guide on what to do when you see a fox in your yard here.
That’s All We’ve Got!
Well, now the mystery of what a fox says is finally solved!
Foxes have been known to make various sounds including screams, growls, barks, gekkering, and the occasional laugh.
If a fox senses danger, it will use high-pitched sounds to ward off its enemy. In addition, foxes will make unique sounds while mating or just playing with other foxes.
Since foxes are nocturnal, you probably won’t catch sight of one during the day, let alone hear one of their famous sounds. However, don’t be surprised if one wakes you up at night.
While foxes can be considered pests, they normally won’t approach a human if they aren’t trying to protect themself. It’s always best to leave a fox behind and not try to get too close!
I hope this article helps the next time you wake up in the night to a strange sound! It may just be your friendly neighborhood fox.
Allen, Stephen H., and Alan B. Sargeant. “Dispersal patterns of red foxes relative to population density.” The Journal of Wildlife Management (1993): 526-533.
Cavallini, Paolo. “Ranging behaviour of red foxes during the mating and breeding seasons.” Ethology Ecology & Evolution 8.1 (1996): 57-65.
Frommolt, Karl-Heinz, Mikhail E. Goltsman, and David W. Macdonald. “Barking foxes, Alopex lagopus: field experiments in individual recognition in a territorial mammal.” Animal Behaviour 65.3 (2003): 509-518.
Sargeant, Alan B., and Stephen H. Allen. “Observed interactions between coyotes and red foxes.” Journal of Mammalogy 70.3 (1989): 631-633.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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