Foxes are most active at dawn, dusk, and night. The fox’s excellent night vision and the crepuscular habits of prey like rabbits mean that these times are prime time for hunting!
Do you want to know when to catch a fox in your backyard? We are answering this question and more, including:
- Are foxes nocturnal?
- Are foxes diurnal?
- What does crepuscular mean?
- Does it mean a fox is sick if you see one in the day?
- If a fox is sick, what could cause them to come out during the daytime?
Are Foxes Nocturnal?
People consider foxes to be nocturnal because they do a lot of their hunting at night when humans are less active. Foxes also have very acutely tuned night-vision, which increases their success when hunting after sundown!
Are Foxes Diurnal?
No, most fox species are not diurnal “by design” but are often active during the day if food is easily accessible. For example, if humans leave food out for wildlife. An easy meal is appealing enough to lure a fox out of the den no matter what day or night it is!
Most Foxes Are Crepuscular
Most foxes are crepuscular and are most active at dawn and dusk. Hunting at these times has multiple benefits, including –
- Much of the fox’s prey is crepuscular (like rabbits,) so hunting at this time makes specific games more accessible.
- Crepuscular hunting makes it more difficult for diurnal and nocturnal animals to track prey, so it is a safer means of hunting if there are predators around!
- Crepuscular hunting also offers more comfortable temperatures for many animals that typically hunt in the cold of night or the heat of the day.
What Are Foxes Hunting For?
When foxes hunt for prey during dawn, dusk, and night, they usually hunt for:
Foxes are also scavengers and eat most carrion that they come across.
When foxes hunt during daylight hours, they may be hungry and looking for anything edible, or they could be seeking human food. Because humans often feed wildlife like foxes, the animals depend on humans to provide them with food.
Humans do not have to feed foxes for them to hunt during the daytime, though. Foxes are highly intelligent and can learn when you put your pet’s food out on the deck and how to take food out of your trashcan!
You can help keep wild Foxfield by weighing down your trashcan lid and ensuring you do not leave out any food that foxes could get into!
Does It Mean A Fox is Sick If I See It In The Daytime?
Seeing a fox in the daytime does not necessarily mean the animal is sick. As scavengers and opportunistic feeders, foxes will alter their sleep/wake schedule if there is a chance for food.
Many nocturnal or crepuscular animals alter their natural circadian rhythm because food is available, but this is particularly true of new mothers. Vixens still nursing pups do not leave the den to get food – the dog brings food to the vixen so she does not have to leave her kits alone.
Once fox kits can eat regurgitated or solid foods, both parents leave the den to fetch food for the family. A fox vixen can have as many as ten kits, so she and the dog may need to spend daytime hunting food so that there is enough to feed the whole litter!
Foxes that come out in the daytime may also suffer from illnesses like mange or rabies or be malnourished. Daytime foxes may also be hungry.
A fox that is out in the daytime may also be malnourished. Malnutrition can be the result of a disease like mange (see below,) or it can result from other factors like
- Human destruction of natural fox habitats.
- Being an injured or outcast fox.
- Being an orphaned fox.
- Unusual weather patterns – like droughts.
Mange in Foxes
Mange is another common reason for foxes coming out in the daytime. Mange is a skin disease caused by mites. If left untreated, mange can lead to thick crusty scabs and hair loss anywhere on the body. If left untreated for a prolonged period, the fox can succumb to systemic infection or starve to death because of mange scabbing around the face.
Mange is treatable, and most wildlife rehabilitation staff utilize a one-dose pill in a small portion of food to treat wildlife without having to capture them.
If a fox is in bad condition due to mange and unable to survive in the wild without hands-on treatment, many rabies-free countries take the fox in for rehabilitative care. Since foxes are a rabies vector, the United States does not provide much hands-on wildlife rehabilitation for foxes.
Rabies in Foxes
Do not assume that seeing a fox in the daytime means the animal has rabies!
Foxes can contract rabies, but if a fox has rabies, you will see symptoms of serious illness.
Foxes with rabies show many of the same symptoms seen in domestic dogs and other rabies vectors; they include:
- Hydrophobia (Being unable to drink water.)
- Staggering while walking.
- Biting animals and objects.
- Lack of fear.
- Acting similarly to a zombie.
If you suspect that a fox has rabies, do not approach it; get to a place of safety and call animal control to come, and safely trap the animal. Rabies can spread to humans and other animals and is a fatal disease if left untreated.
Conclusion / Summary
Foxes are active in the morning, afternoon, evening, or night! Though most foxes are crepuscular or nocturnal, they are most active at dawn, dusk, and night. If you see a fox during the daytime, do not assume that anything is wrong – they may just be scavenging for food!