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Foxes, as with most canines, can be quite vocal at times both to communicate with other foxes and with other animals. Scientists have characterized their vocalizations quite succinctly and recognize more than a dozen different sounds they make. They’ve also learned fox pups have unique sounds they make to communicate to their siblings and parents. Many of the individual sounds can be lumped into specific categories.
As with most canines such as dogs, wolves and coyotes, barking is the main sound they make to communicate to other canines and other animals. A fox’s bark is a high yip, not unlike the bark of small dogs similar in size to a fox. Several types of barks exist from a quick “yip” that might express sudden surprise to drawn-out series of barks used to alert other foxes of something afoot and alerting other animals the fox is present and on alert.
Growls are warning threats to other foxes and other animals that a fox is on alert, currently in a defensive posture and is willing to fight rather than back down or try to escape. As is common in other canines, growls are made low in their throat and the guttural sound is meant to be heard only at close range. Fox pups often growl when “play fighting” with their litter mates but when they hear a parent growl, they instantly take it as a warning.
Whines and Whimpers
Whines between adult foxes are made to communicate submission when dealing with other foxes they don’t wish to force to aggression. Fox cubs use whines to alert their parents they are hungry, cold or in need of some sort of attention. Whimpers are like whines, but never loud and strident. They are strictly used to communicate among other foxes, most often between family members. Whimpers are often meant to be soothing, to keep pups quiet and content or to signal all is well.
Foxes are solitary animals, but when two are in close proximity, they may communicate by gekkering. They do this by making a continuous series of low guttural sounds mixed in with occasional yelps and howls. These sounds aren't as familiar to humans as the bark and howl because they aren't loud -- they're only used by foxes that are close to each other. Young foxes amy make gekkering sounds while playing, and adults may make them to defend territory.
Mike Schoonveld has been writing since 1989 with magazine credits including "Outdoor Life," "Fur-Fish-Game," "The Rotarian" and numerous regional publications. Schoonveld earned a Master Captain License from the Coast Guard. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife science from Purdue University.