fox digging hole in the desert

Where Do Foxes Sleep in the Wild and the Open?

Foxes sleep in different places, but underground dens are the most common sleeping location.

Their choice of sleeping location depends on the availability of shelter, safety, and their instincts.

The process of selecting dens is also different. Some species, such as the red fox, dig, while others, like the gray fox, use burrows abandoned by animals like rabbits and groundhogs.

So, where do foxes sleep in different seasons, and how do they dig dens? Let’s discuss these and other sleeping habits below.

The Sleeping Habits and Behaviors of Foxes

Here are the sleeping locations loved by various species. Later on, we discuss where each species sleeps.


These are burrows dug into the ground, often in a concealed location such as a hillside, under rocks, or in dense vegetation. Dens serve multiple purposes for foxes. For instance, they protect 

Arctic foxes from extreme weather and predators like the polar bear. 

Further, these burrows are a secure place for raising baby foxes. Red foxes are particularly adept at creating dens, which can be elaborate with multiple entrances and tunnels.

Temporary Shelter

While foxes have their primary dens, they may also utilize temporary shelters like hollowed-out tree stumps and fallen logs. These temporary shelters offer a quick and convenient refuge, especially when foxes are on the move or during extreme weather conditions. Foxes also adapt to human environments and many call them urban foxes.

An urban fox isn’t a species but a wild fox roaming human settlements and calling it home. The behavior and adaptability of urban foxes can vary depending on the specific urban environment and the availability of resources. 

While some people may appreciate the presence of these adaptable creatures in urban settings, others may have concerns about potential conflicts, such as damage to property or interactions with pets.

They’re most active during the night or twilight hours to avoid human activity. They feed on a diet that often includes scavenging for food scraps in garbage bins, raiding compost heaps, and hunting small mammals, birds, insects, and even urban rodents. 

They may shelter in human-made structures like sheds, decks, abandoned buildings, or culverts.

Open Sleeping

In milder weather, they may choose to sleep out in the open. They may find a spot in tall grass, under dense shrubbery, or even in the open fields, relying on their natural camouflage and senses to remain alert to potential threats. 

Sleeping in the open provides a quick escape route if needed, and it’s more common among gray foxes due to their climbing ability.

fox den

Where Different Fox Species in North America Sleep

There are several species of foxes, each with its sleeping habits and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of these sleeping locations:

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red foxes are highly adaptable and can inhabit urban areas, forests, or meadows. Hence, you wouldn’t want to leave your tropical fish pond unattended. 

In the wild, they sleep in underground dens. However, red foxes may also use hollow trees, rock crevices, or burrows abandoned by other animals as sleeping sites. They may also rest in concealed locations like tall grass or dense vegetation.

The red fox creates multiple dens within their territory to provide shelter when raising their offspring. Breeding usually occurs during the winter months, and the female fox, or vixen, selects a secure and concealed den site to give birth to her pups. 

After the young foxes are weaned and grow more independent, the family may move to other dens within their territory, demonstrating the red fox’s adaptability and ability to switch den sites to ensure their survival and the successful rearing of their young.

Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

This species is unique among North American foxes because it’s an excellent climber. Therefore, it often sleeps in trees, choosing the safety of branches to avoid predators like coyotes. Tree hollows, cavities, or even abandoned bird nests are also sleeping sites. 

If there are no suitable trees, they may still use ground dens like red foxes.

Gray foxes tend to be monogamous, and they breed from January to March. The denning location ensures the survival and development of the offspring while allowing the adults to exhibit their largely solitary and elusive behavior during their active hours.

Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus)

Like polar bears, Arctic foxes sleep in dens dug in the snow or the ground, where they can find shelter from the extreme cold and harsh weather conditions. They make complex underground dens that cover a large area and maybe the communal shelter. Such an infrastructure helps these foxes hide from predators and hunt.

During the breeding season in the winter months, they dig intricate burrows in the snow for a safe and insulated haven for raising their young. The Arctic fox displays strong monogamous bonds during this period, with both parents actively participating in nurturing their offspring. 

Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

Kit foxes inhabit arid and desert regions in the southwestern United States. They dig extensive underground burrows for shelter and sleeping. These burrows often have multiple entrances and can be complex, providing a safe and cool place for cubs to rest during the day, as this species is nocturnal like the flying fox.

Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

These small, nocturnal foxes live in grasslands and prairies of North America. Swift foxes are fast and agile, which helps them escape danger when necessary.

Breeding occurs between December and March, with the female swift fox giving birth to a litter of pups in her den, which she carefully tends to until they’re old enough to venture outside.

A concealed den site is vital for the swift fox’s survival, as it allows them to protect their vulnerable offspring and ensure their reproductive success while avoiding potential threats in their prairie and grassland habitats.

Fennec Fox

This small, desert-dwelling fox is most active during the night. During the intense heat in the Sahara Desert and other arid regions of North Africa, it avoids the scorching sun by seeking refuge in underground burrows that it digs or repurposes from other animals. 

They insulate and line these burrows with soft materials like plant fibers to stay cool during the day and maintain their body temperature in the extreme desert climate. At night, they emerge to forage for food, which consists of insects, small mammals, and plants.

Fennec foxes often form monogamous pairs during the breeding season, and they may use burrows as nesting sites to rear their young, providing a secure and insulated environment in the challenging desert ecosystem.

How Foxes Make Dens

As mentioned above, a fox den isn’t just an opening in the ground. It’s a complex network of holes with different entrances. A fox den may extend over a large field, which makes it difficult for predators to find the chamber occupied recently. Here is a general overview of the design:


Fox dens have a main entrance and one or more escape routes. While digging these holes, foxes conceal or hide the entry beneath vegetation to prevent predators from detecting it.

Tunnel System

Inside the den is a network of tunnels leading to different chambers. These chambers serve various purposes, such as sleeping, raising young, and storing food.

Nesting Chamber

A central chamber in the den may serve as a home for raising fox cubs. Its lining comprises soft materials like leaves, grass, or fur, providing a comfortable and insulated environment for the young.

Spotting fox dens can be challenging, as they are typically well-hidden, and their entrances are inconspicuous. Foxes are also secretive animals that avoid human activity. To increase your chances of finding a fox den, consider looking for tracks, scat, or evidence of recent digging near potential den sites. 

However, it’s essential to observe foxes from a distance and not disturb them, especially during the breeding season.

How Much Do Foxes Sleep?

Foxes are crepuscular animals, which means they’re most active during dawn and dusk. Their need to hunt for food and avoid predators influences their sleeping patterns. Hence, they don’t adhere to a strict sleep-wake cycle like humans. Instead, foxes have a more flexible and adaptive approach to sleep.

On average, adult foxes sleep for about 8 to 9 hours a day. However, this sleep is not continuous and can be multiple short naps day and night. They often sleep after a meal to conserve energy and become active when they need to hunt or scavenge for their next meal.

During the breeding season or when raising young foxes, female foxes may sleep less because they need to care for their cubs. 

They may sleep 3 to 4 hours a day. In addition, male foxes also become more active during the breeding season as they help provide food for the family.

Since foxes are adaptable to various environments, including urban areas, their sleep patterns can adjust to the presence of humans and other disturbances. Therefore, in urban settings, they might be more nocturnal to avoid human activity during the day and scavenge at night when it’s quieter and less risky.


Foxes in North America exhibit flexible sleeping habits and utilize a variety of shelters and strategies depending on their environmental conditions and life stage. Their adaptability and resourcefulness enable them to thrive in diverse habitats.

Most foxes use dens dug in the ground, with multiple entrances and chambers. These serve as sleeping chambers and a home for the adult fox to watch over the young.

Foxes are active year-round, relying on a combination of physiological adaptations, behavioral changes, and hunting abilities to survive winter. Hence, they need these dens for storing food and hiding from predators. 


Where do foxes sleep?

Foxes shelter in underground dens, burrowing into the ground or repurposing existing structures like hollow trees, rock crevices, or even abandoned burrows of other animals.

Do foxes sleep in the same den every night?

Not really. Foxes may use multiple dens within their territory and change their sleeping location frequently to lower the risk of predation by preventing their scent from accumulating in one spot.

Can foxes sleep in urban areas?

Yes, foxes have adapted to urban environments and may use hidden spots like gardens, sheds, or storm drains as makeshift dens when natural den options are limited.

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