There’s nothing quite as bone-chilling as hearing a vixen wail in the middle of the night. This is just one of the noises that foxes will use to communicate with each other. These chatty critters are mostly active at night, so what do foxes do all day?
Foxes are considered crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. During the day, foxes are usually resting in a heavily wooded area, foraging for food, searching for a mate, or pursuing an opportunity for food.
Seeing a fox during the day isn’t a cause for alarm. There are several reasons why these critters may be trotting around under the sun. Let’s check them out!
Do Foxes Come Out During The Day?
Both good and bad news depending on your viewpoint, but foxes are found pretty much everywhere in the United States. The only exceptions are some parts of the southwest and southeast and the Great Plains.
Three species of true fox live in North America – the red fox, kit fox, and arctic fox.
While all three species live in North America, the red fox is the most widespread. Kit foxes are secluded to the southwest and parts of Mexico, while arctic foxes are only seen in the northern regions of the continent.
Each species of fox has its quirks and attributes, but when it’s all said and done, most foxes share a similar lifestyle and behavior no matter the species. They are active at dusk, dawn, and the dark hours in between.
So, do foxes ever come out during the day?
Foxes Come Out During The Day For Food
Foxes will come out during the day, especially in the springtime. This is when kits are being born and the male foxes are going after prey to extra to provide for the whole family.
Male foxes provide food for themselves and the mother fox, meaning they’re working double-time on their prey search. Their nighttime prowling can sometimes spill over into daylight hours if more food is needed or if their night meal finding was unsuccessful.
Even though springtime is when males go after prey extra for the mother fox, foxes will continue this during the day at any time of the year. It may be because of an unsuccessful outing during the night or they are disturbed while eating or the food was stolen by a larger predator.
Foxes Come Out During The Day If The Opportunity Arises
Foxes are part of the same family as coyotes and wolves, Canidae. Similar to their cousin coyote, foxes are opportunistic omnivores.
They’ll eat whatever is available, which has allowed their populations to expand alongside humans. It’s also one of the reasons you may see a fox out during the daytime.
If an opportunity arises such as a passing rabbit or a juicy scrap dropped by a passing car, foxes will become active during the day to seize the opportunity.
Foxes need to consume 1 pound of food per day, which is a pretty hefty amount. It’s no wonder they have such a variety in their diets. According to Rutgers University, foxes will eat voles, groundhogs, rabbits, birds, turtles, eggs, and a wide range of fruits and berries.
And that’s not even a complete list!
Foxes Come Out During The Day To Look For Mates
Love is in the air for foxes from December to March. Foxes are solitary animals but can be seen together during the mating season and kit-rearing season.
When the pressure is high to find a mate, both male and female foxes may come out during the day to move between territories searching for a partner. Foxes are monogamous, meaning they either mate for life or an entire mating season.
Since foxes grow a big ol’ winter coat, they’re active through the winter season, which is typically when you’ll see foxes searching for mates.
According to a study published In the Journal of Mammology, foxes travel the farthest when searching for mates compared to any other type of movement such as going after prey or dispersing from their den.
When foxes come out of their den during the day in search of a mate, they may give off a high-pitched howl that may startle you! However, it’s just them trying to find their long lost soul mate. You can learn more about the specific sounds and noises that foxes make here if you’d like.
Foxes Come Out During The Day To Disperse From Their Dens
When foxes are born, these tiny creatures are pretty helpless. They’re blind and only weigh a little over 3 ounces. The male and female work together to raise the kits, one feeding while the other searches for a meal from prey.
After a short while, about 1 month, the kits make a long journey to the den opening, where they glimpse the sun and sky for the first time. Soon, they’ll go on meal searching trips to learn how to fend for themselves.
With a little teaching from mom and dad, the kits are ready to strike out on their own. This typically happens at the end of summer and the beginning of fall. This dispersal period may be a reason foxes come out during the day.
Males in particular travel farther from the original den in search of new territory. They also will be the first to leave the den.
What To Do If You See A Fox During The Day?
Seeing a fox in the wild can be an exciting moment when you’re hiking or exploring, but it can be a little unsettling to see them in your yard, especially in broad daylight.
The good news is, foxes are not a threat to humans. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the only time a fox would be a danger to a human is if it was sick, which is very rare.
So, if you see a fox trotting on your lawn in the middle of the day, what should you do? You have a few options to choose from:
- Leave it alone
- Call wildlife control
- Haze the fox
Let’s check these out in detail…
Leave The Fox Alone
The first and easiest choice is to simply leave the fox alone and let it go on its way. We discussed earlier all the possible reasons a fox may be out during the day, so it’s no cause for alarm.
You can always keep tabs on the fox and see if they are just passing through or if they seem to be sticking around.
If the fox is just passing through, no problem. However, if you see the fox on multiple occasions or for a few days in a row, it might have made a den in your yard or be attracted to something in your yard.
If this happens, you can still leave the fox alone, but you’ll want to take some precautions:
- Supervise pets outside: If a fox has made a den beneath your shed or in a brush pile, you do not want your dog sniffing around the den or for your curious cat to get too close. Foxes will defend their dens, especially if their kits are around.
- Pick up all food sources: pet food, fallen birdseed, fallen fruit, spilled garbage…you get the point. Anything that a fox would consider food should be picked up or cleaned up. This will help make your yard less attractive to foxes (as well as other critters!).
If you’re having trouble keeping your garbage lids secure, try using something like the Blazer Brand Strong Strap Universal Garbage Can Lid Lock. This will help your lids stay secure even if they get knocked over, and it’s easy for sanitation workers to take on and off.
- Block Spaces Beneath Your Porch And Shed: If the fox hasn’t made their den yet, you can ensure they won’t stick around to make one by blocking off den areas. Stainless steel mesh such as Varwaneo ½ inch 18GA Hardware Cloth will do just fine.
You can use mesh that’s up to 2 inches wide, but using ½ inch will help block other critters from using those spaces as well.
Block the spaces beneath your porch, beneath sheds, or any other small space these crafty foxes can fit under. It’s suggested to not only block the space but to bury the mesh 1 foot into the ground and 1 foot away from the structure, creating an ‘L’ shape.
You can also use something simple like a radio to deter foxes.
Call Wildlife Control
Leaving the fox alone is the first, easiest, and best choice when it comes to seeing foxes during the day. However, if there is something off about the fox’s behavior or it seems injured, you can call a wildlife professional and explain the situation to them.
Wildlife control will not make a trip to your house if the fox is acting normal and not disturbing anything.
If the fox is stumbling, seems disoriented, is limping, or laying down in broad daylight in your yard, there may be something wrong with the animal such as injury or a partial vehicular collision.
In these instances, you can use our nationwide pest control finder to get in contact with a wildlife professional near you.
Haze The Fox
Hazing is a good technique to help wild animals stay wild. It’s been used on coyotes, mountain goats, and many more creatures that, over time, lose their fear of humans.
Urban foxes are much more likely to lose their fear of humans than rural foxes. Urban foxes are constantly exposed to the hustle and bustle of human life, so when they see a human they may not immediately run away.
If nothing negative happens when they don’t immediately run away, they slowly learn that they are in no danger from humans.
City foxes also have access to tons of human-spilled food, which can make them bolder around people as they try to snatch an easy dinner.
When foxes are acting bold or you are worried about your pets, you can use hazing techniques to deter foxes from coming around again. The object of hazing is never to hurt the animal, only to remind it that they should be afraid of people.
In the end, hazing helps wild animals way more than giving out free handouts or providing shelter, which can ultimately be detrimental to the animal.
If you plan on hazing, you can use the Human Society’s Guide To Hazing Coyotes as a baseline for hazing foxes. When it boils down to it, hazing involves being loud and intimidating to the fox, making it wary of coming back. You can:
- Wave your arms
- Spray the fox with your garden hose
- Use a squirt gun
- Throw a stick or ball near (but not at) the fox
- Bang pots and pans
- Use a noisemaker
Pretty much be loud and obnoxious, and your fox problem is likely to go away. You can also check out our step by step guide on what to do If you see a fox In your yard for more information.
Where Do Foxes Sleep?
Most of us have seen a picture or documentary of a cute Arctic fox all curled up in a little ball of fluff. But arctic foxes aren’t the only species of fox to sleep like that. According to Michigan State University, In wintertime, red foxes will use their tails to keep warm while sleeping as well.
Foxes sleep during the day but will also sleep at night if they’ve eaten a big meal or have nothing else to do. They’re typically on the opposite schedule of humans to avoid conflict.
Foxes like to sleep under thick cover such as a heavily wooded forest or beneath a bush. They prefer ridges and hilltops as long as they are covered with vegetation. When it’s rainy or snowy, foxes will sometimes use their dens to sleep.
Dens are used for sleeping while the mother fox is raising her kits as well. Sometimes, the male and female fox will separate the litter into two different dens to try to avoid predators.
Foxes aren’t likely to sleep near human dwellings unless they have a den beneath a porch or shed. Otherwise, they sleep deep in the forest or other areas with heavy cover.
What Time Of Day Are Foxes Most Active?
Every animal has a circadian rhythm, whether it be the night owl (literally) or the early morning riser. These rhythms play an important role in the animal’s survival.
Owls are active mostly at night while hawks and eagles are active during the day. This makes it easier for both species to find food since they are not all searching for a quick meal at the same time despite eating the same types of food.
For foxes, they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is called crepuscular and describes many neighborhood animals like voles, rabbits, skunks, mice, rats, opossums, and deer.
You probably noticed that a lot of fox food is on that list – voles, rabbits, mice, and rats. Since these are a fox’s favorite food, we can surmise that this circadian rhythm didn’t happen by accident.
Foxes fill the niche for these prey animals by being active at the same time they are.
If you’re finding an active fox in the day near you that you need to keep out, take a look at our guide on the scents that foxes hate here to keep them out naturally!
The Pros And Cons Of Foxes
Just like circadian rhythms, every animal has positives and negatives too. Except for wasps…they’re just awful!
Hatred for stinging wasps aside, foxes play an important role in the environment and benefit humans as well. However, they also have some negative aspects that we’ll go over.
Benefits Of Foxes
Even the tiniest of creatures can have a positive impact on the environment around them. For example, ants help aerate the soil by building their network of tunnels, thus helping plants grow.
Some creatures have a significant impact on the ecosystem like wolves and cougars. These animals are the apex predators in their territory and help keep the cascading food chain in proper order.
Foxes fall somewhere in between. They have more of an impact than ants, but less than wolves. They are considered mesocarnivores, meaning that a lot of their diet consists of meat, but not all of it.
So, what are some good qualities about foxes?
- Pest control: Foxes are very good at keeping the population of mice, voles, rats, and rabbits under control. This is important because these smaller prey animals reproduce so rapidly. Having foxes around keeps them in check.
- Seed dispersal: Remember how we said foxes are mesocarnivores? Well, the smaller part of their diet consists of fruits and berries. When foxes use the little fox room, the seeds of these fruits and berries are excreted and dispersed around the forest.
Seed dispersal helps fruits and berries survive, carrying the seeds far enough away from the parent bush or tree that they have a fighting chance at survival.
- Pets: In some places, foxes have been bred to be tame, making them available as exotic pets. However, there are only a few states in the U.S. that allow individuals to keep foxes as pets.
Drawbacks of Foxes
As with all things, there are both positives and negatives with foxes. You can’t have these bushy-tailed animals in your yard without some drawbacks, right?
All three fox species are considered ‘least concern’ according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, kit foxes are seeing a decrease in population while red and arctic foxes have a stable population.
This is a good sign, as tons of species have seen a decline in populations with the increase in human expansion. Nonetheless, the fact that foxes haven’t been declining means they are living among us. And there is bound to be conflict.
- Close encounters with pets: urban and suburban foxes get up close and personal with humans in a way that rural foxes do not. The closeness of their encounters means they are near domestic animals as well. Foxes can see dogs and cats as competitors and attack them to defend their den or food.
- Raid chicken coops: Foxes that live near farms can have conflicts with landowners when they go after chickens. Coops that are poorly sealed are vulnerable to nighttime raids by foxes.
To learn how to keep your chickens safe, check out our article about when foxes are most likely to go after chickens!
- Overhunt native species: Foxes are not native in every region, and when they are introduced for pest control they can have devastating effects on the local wildlife. A 2010 study from Australia published in Mammal Review found that foxes were the major cause of the local extinction of native animals.
That’s All For Now!
That’s all we have on where foxes go and live during the day. Now you have a better understanding of what these sly creatures are doing while we’re at work.
Foxes are most active at dusk and dawn and typically search for food at night. However, you can see foxes out during the day for a variety of reasons. Most often, foxes sleep during the day.
Here’s specifically what foxes do during the day:
- Search for a meal
- Disperse from their dens
- Searching for mates
If you see a fox in your yard during the day, it’s not a cause for concern unless the fox is acting oddly. There are plenty of ways you can make your yard less attractive to reduce fox sightings.
Foxes are beneficial by providing pest control and dispersing the seeds of the berries and fruits they eat. On the other hand, they can interact with your pets and raid chicken coops and chase down ducks.
All in all, fox populations are pretty stable around the world except for a few species. Red foxes in particular are very widespread and commonly live among humans.
For better or worse, these creatures are here to stay. The first step to living with foxes is to understand their habits, including what they do during the day.
Contesse, P., Hegglin, D., Gloor, S., Bontadina, F., & Deplazes, P. (2004, February). The diet of urban foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and the availability of anthropogenic food in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Mammalian Biology, 69(2), 81-95. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S161650470470107X
Gloor, S. (n.d.). Adaptations to the urban environment in habitat associate of foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, 61-72. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.459.8933&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Saunders, G. R., Gentle, M. N., & Dickman, C. R. (2010, June 08). The impacts and management of foxes Vulpes vulpes in Australia. Mammal Review, 40(3), 181-211. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2907.2010.00159.x
Soulsbury, C. D., lossa, G., Baker, P. J., White, P. C.L., & Harris, S. (2011, February 16). Behavioral and spatial analysis of extraterritorial movements in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Journal of Mammalogy, 92(1), 190-199. https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/92/1/190/941492?login=true
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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