Red Fox is a very common species throughout Ireland, and is found in a wide range of habitats including highly urbanised environments, where it is becoming increasingly abundant. Unfortunately this species suffers unnecessary and often cruel persecution at the hands of a small minority. It is one of 19 species of fox in the world, and is our only native species of wild canid. For us it is always a welcome, refreshing sight, whenever we are lucky enough to have one cross our path.
Fortunately for us sound recordists, this species is a very vocal one (especially in January & February), and has been documented to have at least 20 call types, with some authors claiming as many as 40! A lot of these vocalisations are rarely heard or are made by cubs. Let’s have a look at some of the more commonly heard calls and what they mean.
Scream calls are one of the more characteristic calls, typically given by vixens in January and February, when they advertise their availability to any potential nearby mates. Whilst this vocalisation can also be given by males, it is more common in females for the aforementioned purpose. It is possible that the infamous shriek of the banshee from Irish mythology actually stemmed from this spine-chilling fox vocalisation.
Wow-wow-wow barks are another very commonly heard vocalisation in the species. They are used as contact calls, most often between individuals as they approach one another. Males can reply to a “Vixen’s Scream” with this vocalisation, but it is not limited to this scenario, and can be used between both sexes. This vocalisation is very-like a domestic dog’s bark but is notably higher-pitched, owing to the on average smaller body size of the Red Fox.
Ratchet calls are given as an erratic burst of excited and varied vocalisations, usually between confrontational individuals.