Why do foxes scream?

by Russ on January 26, 2013

The Red Fox can be heard 'screaming' all year but more so in the breeding season.In the middle of the night, have you ever heard high-pitched screaming coming from the woods? Sounds that can send shivers down your spine, or simple stop you from sleeping. Many of you may already know that this noise is actually being made by none other than the Red Fox. It is a sound that can be heard throughout the year and, although made by both sexes, is usually made by the female fox.

Foxes make various noises for different reasons, but the scream is usually made around the breeding season. Screams are used to confirm territory between rival foxes. The females also make this screaming call around the time of and during mating.

To our ears it can sound like a painful call, particularly as foxes breed in the same way that dogs do. Mating can last for up to 20 minutes during which the two animals effectively become ‘locked together’. Unless disturbed this is not normally painful and the ‘screaming’ can be considered as the fox’s love song.

Don’t forget…

Leave a comment below if you’ve ever heard foxes screaming or making any other type of noise and be featured in next week’s blog. You can also send your wildlife pictures to:

russ@naturetalksandwalks.co.uk

Also remember to subscribe to our blog at the top right of the screen for updates on events,  your pictures, wild files and much more.

Take care, and stay on the wild side.

Russ

 


{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Gemma June 28, 2013 at 3:30 am

Its is 3.25 am and me and my partner have been woken by what sounds like an animal in pain coming from the woods by our house. Alarmed by this we next out to see if there was anything stuck in the fence of the school thinking it could be a fox. After looking and finding nothing and the noise stopping me have come back inside and searched fox screams and the Mogadishu we have heard is actually the red fox scream. Very interesting to find out what it was and it is normal for red foxes to make such a loud noise.
We live in Telford TF7 area.

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Laura Johnston June 28, 2013 at 5:03 am

In Lake Utopia, New Brunswick Canada I heard terrifying screams that woke me from my sleep at 12:15am. I was startled so I got out of bed and went to the kitchen where I heard the screams louder, and seemed to be moving from one end of the house to the other. I had absolutely no idea that it was a red fox until my friend Manning listen to the recording I took!

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Leener July 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Woke up to a frightening scream coming from the woods. Never heard it before. Just learned that it is a red fox. Thought maybe it was a coyote or wild mink which are also in our area here in Northern New Jersey, USA. Better keep our tiny dogs inside!

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Laura July 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

Hi, we’ve had foxes come in our backyard near our fenced in area for our dogs, it seems there has been a fox (not sure if it is the same one) who will be passing by screaming
And of course our dogs will start barking at it. As it leaves our yard and with the dogs still barking, the fox continues screaming. I am just wondering why this fox is screaming? I mean, is this fox looking also for a mate?
Laura,

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Russ July 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Hi guys,

It’s good to see so many people talking about screaming foxes, it’s one of those events you’ll always remember.

In answer to your question Laura there could be a number of reasons why this fox was ‘screaming’. Female foxes will often be the one ‘screaming’ to attract a male fox in the breeding season. But foxes make various types of noises and as this fox was close to your dogs it may have been more of a defensive or territory cry. How often does it visit the garden?

Russ

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Patty July 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

We were woken up at about 2:30 am this morning to a very loud eerie scream, repeating over and over, coming from the golf course behind our house (Cobbs Creek GC, in Philadelphia). We thought maybe it was a rabid animal – we went out to investigate from the safety of our deck and shined a flashlight out into the darkness saw a pair of eyes shing/staring back at us…that’s all we could see in the dark. It was moving only occasionally within about a 5 foot area for about 15 minutes, screaming repeatedly all the while. We really thought is was a rabid animal so didn’t want to get too close to investigate. it eventually moved slowly away and the screaming stopped altogether. I looked online today and listened to online recordings of fox screams, and sure enough, that’s what it was. We’ve lived here a long time and have heard this before but its always been further away, and never for as long as this. We often see foxes around the same location and we are very conscious of our cats’ safety – we did have one cat disappear last year and suspect he was taken by something out there. :-( Thanks for your interesting article. Patty and Carl in Philadelphia

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Chris August 21, 2013 at 12:15 am

12.10am Bristol. Heard screams and thought something terrible was going on outside. Looked out of the window to see a fox in the middle of the road screaming about once every 10s. Continued until a car came down the road. Lots of urban foxes living in the middle of Bristol !

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Cornelia August 21, 2013 at 2:30 am

Just heard the strangest noise ever in the front garden (lots of bushes and trees, etc), looked out the window as it sounded like someone may have been hurt or in danger and I just see a fox sat screaming, not in pain, just screaming with another fox nearby and casually walking off into a bush! Ever so strange, hubby wasn’t pleased tho as it was 2:30am!

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Clegg Bamber August 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm

22:13pm and fox screaming is well and truly underway in the backgarden. London TW13

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Mimi September 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Last night we heard a fox screaming at 5am walking down the road. Having never heard anything like that, I honestly thought it was a woman being attacked. I looked out the window and sure enough saw a fox. Bristol England.

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Karoline September 13, 2013 at 3:15 am

Winston-Salem, NC USA- We have heard this scream off and on over the summer. It comes from the woods at the edge of our backyard. It could be as early as dusk but more often well after dark. Initially, I thought it was friends of my teenage boys out in the woods trying to scare us :) However, it kept happening over a period of time. It started up again last night and tonight so I finally thought to look on line to see what it might be. I listened to the sound of the red fox and immediately knew that was it! It made sense because a red fox has been spotted several times in our neighborhood this summer. I got a glimpse of it once as it appeared at the edge of the woods one afternoon – so beautiful! Such a horribly scary scream! ;)

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Debbie September 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I’ll never forget the first time we heard a red fox screaming in our back yard. We woke up to what sounded like a little girl screaming so loudly we thought someone was being killed outside. I have 2 cats that I try to keep in at night but sometimes they will not come in and stay outside. There is also several stray cats that hunt in that area. My back yard backs up to a field. I know that there is a fox den close to the property line in the trees. I have seen the holes in the ground and I have seen the fox run across my back yard in the early morning hours. Every once in awhile we get to hear the screaming from our front and back yard. Once it was close to my gargage door and it ran away when I opened the door. It is a sound that stays with you and you won’t forget it.

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Amanda September 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The resident fox behind our house in the woods came about 200 ft from our dog radio fence and sat staring at our golden retriever shrieking. He/she did this for about an hour, even while I was out with the dog, until I walked up in front of the fence where the dog couldn’t go. We didn’t know if it was territorial deal or a desperate female fox. Then we started finding fox scat at the fringes and then right up next to our house, so we think it’s territorial. Not happy about this since this particular fox looks a little mangy and I don’t want my dog to pick up the parasite.

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michael April 2, 2014 at 2:22 am

Make sure that your dog is immunized against mange, just in case the fox is mangy and gets too close.

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Beth September 30, 2013 at 3:44 am

There are lots of urban foxes in dudley. I just woke up in a panick thinking i could hear burglars on the drive so i opened the window to investigate and a fox appeared out the bushes. I watched a while and it seems we have some renting our drive for the night. Once one nipped off there was a lot of screaming and then another popped out the bush. They are beautiful animals but that scream always gets me. Oh and its 3:43 in the morning.

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Tomi October 8, 2013 at 2:26 am

Where I live it is quite a woodish area but not the countryside and throughout the year ill hear fox screams id say very often every few months but I’ve looked out to see a younger baby fox being attacked by several older ones followed bitten etc..They seem to come out the woods and situate themselves near open plots of green and bushes.

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Rebecca Ingham October 21, 2013 at 3:24 am

Me and my dog got woken up about 30 minutes ago by screaming and man when you’re deep asleep then hear that your mind goes into overdrive, i know know where horror films and being afraid of the dark came from lol. Being an animal lover i had to do a little research to make sure it was a fox especially since my dog wanted to jump out the window to investigate. We went out the door to calm her down instead, anyway love the information big Thank You.

From Buttershaw, Bradford, West Yorkshire. England. Not near a Forrest though but not far off nature places. At about 3am.

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Liz October 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

We live in a heavily wooded suburb of Boston and have red fox living in a glen across the road. Today around 4:30 am I started to hear the most eerie scream – with earplugs in it sounded like someone whispering harshly in my room! Upon listening closely I could tell it was an animal outdoors and then after listening to clips of red fox I knew what it was. My kids were terrified!!

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Patty October 23, 2013 at 3:06 am

We have a fox in our neighborhood in Alexandria VA and usually you can only catch a glimpse of it. Tonight I was out walking my dog and it saw us from across a street and started screaming at us. Scariest thing I ever heard. Got out of the yard quickly. I guess we encroached on fox territory.

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Kim Kelly November 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I think we have foxes living at the end off the garden and yes they scream.I wish they would find a new home, I have two dogs and all this noise unsettles them. I am also concerned for both as one day my jack russell is quick on his toes and will creep up on this lazy foxes residing at the back of the garden. The dogs do need to use the garden. Let’s hope they get fed up with running away.

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Dianne November 15, 2013 at 4:50 am

Last two nights, fox screaming her fool head off in my backyard. I’m already not a big hit with the neighbors, since I have two howling beagles. But this…! I’m in Washington, D.C.

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Lola November 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

In the D.C. Metro area, at 2:00 am this morning while lying in bed I heard a dreadful screaming noise, very disturbing, it sounded like an animal in pain. Never heard before…and hope I won’t again..

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Angie November 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

We were woken at 3am this morning by the screams of foxes across our road, i presumed these to be mating. i have never heard it so loud before.

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Danielle November 30, 2013 at 6:55 am

Tonight after midnight my 2 Great Danes were barking like crazy. I could hear what sounded like an injured cat near a window. I opened my back door to hear a horrible eerie scream. It almost sounded human. There are woods and a stream on the backend of our property. I woke up my husband explaining and duplicating what I heard…it was a terrible sound that concerned me. He casually says oh it’s probably a fox. Well he was correct. I looked up their sounds on the internet and that is what it was. I saw a big red fox run across my backyard two days ago but never heard that sound. Now I know the screams of the red fox!

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Bonnie December 2, 2013 at 12:00 am

At 5 a.m. in Milwaukee, I got up to let the dog out. Sounded like a sick eagle or goose screaming on my garage and the dog would not go out. I got on my boots and coat and went out and by this time the screaming was on the front lawn. He or She was looking in the air and screaming this loud yell. I scared it away but heard it screaming again down a few houses. Pretty soon it came running and crossed the street and it looked like it had something in its mouth. Never thought foxes yelled that loud.

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Cudzie January 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Hi, I live in Dublin, Ireland (close to the Dublin mountains) and in our housing estate there are red foxes freely coming and going once the sun goes down… they scream at night too! One night i thought it was my baby through the monitor so i rushed to his room only to find him peacefully sleeping!!! I then opened the window and spotted a beautiful red fox on our neighbours wall … he or she was screaming i will never forget this… i was actually worried about him/her thought that she had lost a pup or something.
Anyway, thanks for your article… next time i hear them i will smile! :)

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Adele January 17, 2014 at 2:14 am

Hi, im sooo glad that this article is here! Ive just heard what i thought was a dog in pain in the woods at 01:15 as im an animal lover ive not been able to rest and was investigating but thanks to this article i can put my mind at rest. Thankyouu :) !!

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sarah martin January 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Just before midnight last night I heard the most spine-chilling screams and screeches coming from outside my bedroom window. We live right on the edge of a beautiful park, with a lake, woods and lots of green open spaces.
The sounds echoed all over and at first I thought a fox had got a goose, as there is a big flock on our park. And then it sounded like a cat fight, and then a woman screaming. I could tell from the sound they were running all over the park, and I also heard what sounded like flapping, like a goose fighting.
Suddenly the noise came closer, and right outside my window, by a small copse of trees, I saw two young foxes – the one in front was screaming, it sounded like it was in pain! The one behind was making the noise like the goose flapping, it tried to mount the one in front, then they turned round to fight each other, up on their back legs, and while they were doing this, the front one (I’m assuming this was the female) made barking noises, then they ran off again and the female was screaming again!
They ran all over the park for the next quarter of an hour or so, and I can only assume they repeated what I had seen from the noises they were making!
It was fascinating to watch, and quite thrilling to hear, if eerie in the dark, and I felt quite honoured to have witnessed it! At least now if I hear those screams again, they won’t be quite as scary!

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Gemma January 18, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Woke up 3.25 the other evening was quite upset heard screaming for a long time I had visions of a fox caught somewhere went on for a long time, got a bit tearful thought fox must have been trapped. Went outside into garden as was so close and I was worried stopped for a while but couldn’t see anything. We get a fox sometimes two every evening and I put out dog biscuits and food most night so look forward to see “our fox” every night.

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Russ January 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Brilliant to hear from so many people on this, foxes have had a difficult relationship with people in the past but it’s great to hear people are now enjoying their neighbourhood foxes!

Our local foxes have started up in the last couple of nights, the vixen screaming loudly letting all the males know exactly where she is!

Russ

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Melissa January 25, 2014 at 4:46 am

It’s 3:45 am in Yorkshire and I’ve just been woken up by a fox screaming, and even though I know what it is it still makes me jump!! It’s such a strange noise! I love being awake at this time though and catching a glimpse of the foxes that live on our street, as I’ve read it’s mainly the females that go out looking for food I refer to her as felicity the fox! My family think I’m mad, and although I would never feed them I do think they’re so lovely! It’s nice to read that other people love foxes too despite their bad reputation.

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Jane January 26, 2014 at 4:27 am

It’s 0300 hrs and I can hear a fox screaming, even though I know what it is, it’s not the sound I really want to hear, when I am patrolling in the dark:) Hull

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Aisling January 28, 2014 at 2:32 am

Just heard the sound for the first time in my life coming from the woods right outside my back window in Cork, Ireland at 1am. Absolutely terrified me! Glad to find out what it actually was! Will never forget this night for as long as I live! I genuinely thought it was a woman’s scream until it kept going on and on in the exact same tone.

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Kim January 29, 2014 at 5:01 am

Looking down the comments it’s quite interesting to see a lot of the screaming sounds where made around the same time. I heard the screaming at around 3:25 and it went on for 15 to 20 mins! I assumed like most it was an injured animal and happened to come across this article. I think it’s definitely a fox outside! I saw one out my back garden the other day. I live in the city centre center in Edinburgh, but there’s a train line running at the back of my house. Sounds very creepy!

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Lesley January 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Near Edinburgh, Scotland @ 1.45am – WHAT A FLIPPING RACKET!!!! Thought someone was being murdered. We live in a town and there are urban foxes around. But do they need to make such a blooming noise when they are mating -Tired from Penicuik! :)

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Abs January 31, 2014 at 3:22 am

It’s 2.20 am I’m laying in bed and heard a loud scream it sounded like a women screaming, I can’t sleep now because it sounded horrible.

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Noemi January 31, 2014 at 5:29 am

It’s 4:25 in central London and I just heard them! so I checked out where the sound came from and I spotted three red foxes by the window. They were apparently calm, just walking in the grass, all together but keeping distances. I must say it was a beautiful view :)

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PJ February 3, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Olney, Md: We have enjoyed seeing foxes walking through our yard sometimes in the mornings, but at around midnight, we heard what sounded like a kitten crying. Worried, I jumped out of bed to check on our two cats, and realized the noise was coming from outside. I opened the front door and could mow tell there was horrible, loud screaming coming from across the street–somewhere in their front yard. They have a cat they let out during the day, so I was afraid it might be him, until suddenly the screamer emerged from the darkness, as did her partner–two red foxes separated and went in opposite directions. Interesting, but, at that hour, also quite frightening!

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Claire February 17, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Me and my partner where woken up last night around 3am to very strange screaming noises. Looked outside and saw a fox infront of our house. It saw us and then walked away. Never heard such strange noises before we thought a cat was injured or something. We live in uk, East Riding of yorkshire, hull.

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Lisa February 25, 2014 at 2:28 am

My son and I were awakened last night by what sounded like two women, about a quarter of a mile apart, screaming in turn. Sounded like someone was being murdered. Our dog ran to the back sliding glass door and boomed his disapproval. In the morning, we looked it up on the Internet and found a Youtube video of Red Fox screams. What a noise. We never dreamed a fox could sound like that. I wonder if we had a male and female calling to each other or two of the same gender challenging each other. We live outside Gold Bar, Washington, at the foot of the Cascades.

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Shelley March 2, 2014 at 5:13 am

Woken up at 3.20 by horrible screams, panicked jumped out of bed and looked out front and saw the neighbour opposite with a torch in the garden trying to see what was going on. I then noticed a fox on my drive.
We got two new bunnys 2 weeks ago and they live in the garden, now wide awake (4.40) as I am worried the fox knows they are there and wants to eat them!!

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Tyler March 7, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I actually had a Red Fox at my front door doing this last night. Literally right at the bottom of my steps, standing there calling. I heard it in the distance and as it got cIoser I think it heard my dog barking in response to the calls, and came over to see where the noise was coming from. It stood there calling for a minute or two before walking away.

This is a kind of unrelated story:
Last year I was photographing a mother fox and her kits from a few hundred yards away. I was focusing in two kits at the den while the 3rd kit followed its mother in to the woods. A few minutes later the 3rd kit came prancing out of the woods with a dead bird in its mouth, and ran right up to me (on my toes almost) as if he was showing off his catch. He got nervous and ran away when I moved my camera towards him. – Foxes are great.

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Eric March 19, 2014 at 6:48 am

I live in DC and regularly hear the call of the fox at night. Comforting to know that they are still thriving in such an urban area! Love it…but it does freak my friends out when they come to visit :)

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megan March 25, 2014 at 2:16 am

Every night I hear this! Every..single..night! At 9pm and 3am! I’m so frustrated with it, at first it was pretty cool, but now, now I just want it gone. It scares my kids and is driving me but. Anyway to lead this fox away?

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megan March 25, 2014 at 2:16 am

By the way, I’m in fletcher NC

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Jaclyn March 29, 2014 at 7:09 am

Around midnight I came to bed and my bedroom window is open since its a nice night and I heard an AWFUL screaming in the distance. I thought someone was being attacked. Then I thought to look up fox screams, since I had heard someone mention that before and sure enough, the recording I listened to was identical to the screaming I heard out my window. I will never forget that sound!

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Natalie April 1, 2014 at 12:41 am

12 am tonight heard them again at the park entrance to Decoy woods, Newton Abbot where I have seen a fox cross the road lots of times during the years to the old farmhouse. Not sure how old/she is now or perhaps its a grown up cub Tonight seems to be one of there mating nights in the same area 1/4 mile away from our house on Kingskerswell Road near Decoy primary school and sounds lovely as am used to them and know what they sound like after all this time of living here Not worried though as am used to their noise after 25 years of living here . Lovely animals but understand what’s its like to own lambs, chickens etc etc

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Natalie April 1, 2014 at 12:54 am

Beautiful creatures and met one really close up yesterday at The hedgehog/animal hospital at Ogwell , Newton Abbot. Abandoned Fox cubs from the suburbs of London brought to Devon and are really cared for. You can watch them during the daytime come up from their hyde for food (given by humans) and also watch them underground via web cam. Truly amazing to watch and so so beautiful.

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Pearl Serbanic April 1, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I live in the USA in the deep south state of Louisiana. I watch many tv shows and movies that take place in the UK. My sister and I discussed this eerie sound and she thought it was peacocks but I knew it wasn’t so I looked it up and sure enough it was the magical fox. We do have the Red Fox in our state (except in the northeast portion of the state) and I have heard many sounds in our woods that could be the fox, but they never seem as loud and spooky. I add wanting to hear the fox of the UK to my list of reasons to visit your fine country!

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michael April 2, 2014 at 2:18 am

It is 02:10 in the morning and I am hearing that loud scream, interspersed with barks, not from my house. I recognise it as the sound of a fox, which I haven’t heard since this time last year.
For the past month I have been feeding a fox which visits the back garden every night just after midnight. It arrives regular as clockwork and watches me, watching it, as it eats. Last night two of them arrived. They aren’t at all put out by my presence. I give them dog food, biscuit, various scraps including left over pizza. I love doing it as they are beautiful creatures.

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michael April 2, 2014 at 2:19 am

By the way, I live in Devon, UK.

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Cheryl April 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Last year around this time of the year the foxes made their presents known around 5 am. It first sounded like a cat in agony, I have many barn cats. Every night afterwards they were back, probably looking for food for their babies. I have to say, they are cute when you watch them on video but…… I became very tired of being woken up during the night to their screams. My cats start to seem scared and luckily we never lost any to them. When the pups were probably getting bigger the nightly screams became less, they were probably moving further out for hunting lessons. I am not looking forward to another couple of months of being woken up with their screams under my window. We are also trying to make it so that the fox can’t get at the cats so easily by changing the cat access door into the barn. I am sure one night there was a fox in the barn that went in through the cat door. We have no farm animals so the barn is a home for our cats and will be a better safe haven once the door location is changed. Cute but pains also!
I am from central Alberta Canada

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Hanna April 11, 2014 at 10:40 am

There is a fox right outside my house screaming. I’m watching her; she’s facing the house. It’s 5:30 am. My mom even went outside and it ran but came back and screamed some more lol.

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j April 14, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I woke up last night to a bone chilling noise I have heard before and never knew what it was. This time it was right outside my window and they were open because of the nice weather it was about 2:30 in the morning BC it started then I heard leaves like something was jumping around in a pile of leaves I luckily had a spot light to witch I saw a fox running away as I yelled and shined the light at it and then I got on this site to confirm why and what was making this god awful sound I had goose bumps for like 20 -30 minutes I don’t get why we get chills like that its not really scary well at first before I knew what it was it freaked me out I thought it was cats but never heard a cat make those kind of sounds any way good info from everyone

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