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• Monday, October 08th, 2012

Early fall nights can be quite noisy, with the last of the katydids and crickets singing to each other before the weather turns cool. I love to drift off to sleep to these monotone conversations. The other night though, I was awakened by a God awful sound that roused me from slumber as a mother would leap out of bed when her child calls out in pain. In those first disorienting seconds, when your mind races to identify the sound, determining if it is a dream or real, if it is in the house or out, and whether you need to call the police or just look outside, I sat up in bed, heart racing, breathing hard and feeling the sweat roll down my back. What the heck is that?????

This sound, not quite a yelp, not a scream and not a cry, but a combination of all three was coming from right under my bedroom window. It is a terrible sound of a baby being strangled, (or so I’d imagine that sound to be). It is a gut wrenching, maternal nightmare of a cry.

In those few seconds from sleep to wakefulness, I run through the rollerdex of my brain, (yes, I am that old!), ticking off the possible nocturnal auditory insults that it could be. Dismissing each as they come to mind: owl, no, bat, no, raccoon, no, opossum, no. Fox, yes. Somewhere from the back corners of my sleepy mind, I remember hearing this dreadful sound. It was a red fox.

Mind you, this all is taking place in about 5 seconds as I listen to what sounds like cries of pain. A red fox had parked itself under our front bedroom window, barking and yelping at what I can only guess was our neighbors cat. I’m not sure if this was a standoff, if the fox was warning or he was just happy to be out and about, but this little critter was vocal in his intent, even if I didn’t know what his intentions were.

Red foxes are found throughout the northern hemisphere and have adapted well to human encroachment. Despite their name, red foxes come in a variety of colors from black, to gray to albino white, in addition to the most common orange-red. Though considered nocturnal, red foxes may be seen during the day, especially when the vixen is with pups and more food is required. Outdoor house cats are not much smaller than red foxes, but can become prey for a hungry vixen; yet another good reason to keep your cats indoors where they belong.

Red foxes vocalize for a number of reasons. Males and females call to each other during courtship or vixens will call to her kits (pups). Males call to establish territory and they call when there is a threat. It may take you a few sleepy seconds to run through your rollerdex if it wakes you from slumber, but once you hear the guttural cries, you’ll never forget the sound.

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One Response

  1. 1
    Randi Leibowitz (Barroso) 

    I had heard a similar horrible sound at the stable where I board the horse. The perpriater told me it was a did. I did not believe Judy until I read your post. I think of a fox howling in the moorse of London or howling at the moon. Not creating awful noises that do not sound like a hound.

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