Oct 23 2009
For more than a week my husband and I have heard a mysterious hoarse barking in our neighborhood at night, sometimes behind our house, sometimes at the ballpark across the street. It’s usually three to ten short hoarse barks, then it stops for a while and starts up again in another location. The first time I heard it, it woke me at 4:00am. I lay frozen in bed, listening. There’s a wild thing outside!
We live in a city neighborhood where the houses are five feet apart and the backyards are 600-700 square feet so wild things are unusual, even startling, where we live. I’ve seen birds and raccoons and groundhogs. But larger animals? No. We don’t even have deer on my street.
Every night we hear the barking. It starts as early as 8:30pm and it’s quite loud. The neighbors turn on their outdoor lights and peer out into the darkness. We talk about it at the bus stop, “Did you hear it last night? What is it?”
In the beginning I ruled out red fox because I’d heard one bark in Maine and this sound is not nearly so creepy, but Wednesday night the barking was very close and downright annoying. I had to know so I searched online again and found this excellent video of a “Vixen Barking.” Aha!
Thursday morning she called from the wooded gully across the street an hour before dawn. I watched from my front porch as one housecat, then another, scurried from the woods to the houses next door. She barked again, half a block away, then crossed the street and I saw her silhouetted by the streetlight. A fox! Very cool.
Why is she in my neighborhood and how long will this barking go on? I found those answers online, too.
- Foxes like places that have high prey populations, especially rabbits. We have lots of squirrels and this summer a bumper crop of rabbits.
- Foxes bark to claim territory. Unlike distress or fighting sounds of other animals, foxes repeat the call to get the message across.
- Foxes pair for life but the family stays together only during the breeding season. At this time of year the families split up and the young foxes are finding new places to live. Our fox may be new to the area.
- The barking will certainly end by the next breeding season – probably much sooner. Just to prove the point she was silent last night.
(photo from the National Park Service via Wikimedia, in the public domain)