Found throughout Minnesota, coyotes are wary of humans where they are hunted or trapped. However, they can be very bold in urban and suburban areas where they are less likely to be harmed and associate people with an easy source of food.

There has never been a documented case of a coyote attacking a person in Minnesota. The best way to keep coyotes away is to make loud noises and yell if they approach your yard. Or chase them away. A male coyote on average is about 30 pounds at full size and a female 25 pounds. They're not big.

Remove food sources from your yard and cover your trash. Don't allow pets to run free, and provide secure nighttime housing for them.

Coyotes resemble some small German shepherds. They have a shaggy, grayish-brown coat. Throats and bellies are cream-colored. Whether solo or in groups, coyote yipping can be heard for miles.

I hear them most often in autumn. Coyotes prefer a combination of farmland and forest habitat, but have learned to live in cities. A true scavenger, a coyote will eat just about anything, including grasshoppers, mice, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, fruits and vegetables, doughnuts and sandwiches, carrion, garbage, poultry, and small calves. Food supply can determine the percentage of females that breed in a year. February is mating season. Five to seven pups are born in April after 60 to 63 days gestation.

In other notes:

• Avid maple syrup producers have their gear ready.

• We continue to see active opossums, especially at wildlife feeding stations and dog dishes. Opossums don't hibernate but they sleep in sheltered spots for days during extreme cold spells.

• With an increase of two hours and four minutes of extra daylight since the winter solstice last Dec. 21, there is a noticeable increase in bird vocalizations (wonderful whistled songs of black-capped chickadees and northern cardinals).

Jim Gilbert's observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.