Wild Animals/red fox

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Question
Hi there!  I recently moved to a townhouse complex in Northeast US (New England) that sits on a man-made pond that is home to many ducks and at least one swan.  It is in a heavily residential area of a rather large town, just one street away from a major highway.

This morning, after a month of living here, I woke up around 5:30 AM to what sounded like blood curdling human screams.  I looked out the window to see a small red fox standing about a foot from my back deck.  It screamed several times, roamed around a bit, and then just seemed to disappear.  

I looked under the deck and since it's wide open I can see there's no 'den' under there.  However, I can't see clearly under the decks of some of my neighbors, so I don't know if there's possibly a den there.

I've read that foxes are generally harmless, so I'm not too worried, except that I have a small, 25-pound Boston Terrier that I walk around the grounds several times a day, including at night and very early morning/dawn or even earlier.  If my dog sees the fox, it will definitely start barking loudly and trying to run towards it, and I'm worried if the fox has a den of pups nearby it might get defensive and attack.

I have a few questions:
1.  Is it common to see/hear a fox at this time of year (mid-May)?
2.  What does that extremely loud 'scream' mean?  (It sounded like "Ow!" At first I thought it was a human crying for help)  Is it a mating call? A cry for help?  Could it signify there are more foxes in the area?
3.  Assuming it is not rabid (it didn't appear to be acting strangely at all), should I be concerned it might attack my dog if I'm walking the dog on a leash?  Would it probably just run away or might it defensively attack if the dog starts growling/barking at it?  

Thanks in advance for your help!

Answer
Hallo Susan

Thank you for your questions. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

1. Over the last few years, red foxes have become more adapted to humans and seem to move around urban areas without trying to stay hidden. I have seen red foxes during the day in London, so I don't think your sighting is unusual. Enrico (http://seatuck.typepad.com/fromscully/2008/06/fox-scream.html) says that young female foxes often scream in late spring or early summer, which corresponds with mid-May.   

2. Enrico (http://seatuck.typepad.com/fromscully/2008/06/fox-scream.html) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox#Vocalisations say that young female foxes often scream to find a mate to pair up with for the year.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox#Vocalisations gives other examples of fox calls and says that  submissive animals may give an ululating siren-like shriek when approached by a dominant animal. Alison Clair (http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/forums/mammal-forums/48694-fox-screams-meaning) suggests that foxes may scream to mark out their territories. All these examples of screams indicate that there are other foxes in the area.

3. http://www.thefoxwebsite.org/faq/urbanfoxproblems.html#q2 suggests that the fox is unlikely to attack your dogs. Foxes avoid dogs, as many foxes are killed by dogs. Please note that there is a risk of your dog catching a disease from a fox (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1373857/Deadly-urban-fox-disease-spreadi), so it would be better to keep your dog on a leash.

All the best

Jonathan

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.

Experience

I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

Organizations
WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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