DIAMONDHEAD -- Sylvester is a 20-pound house cat, a black-and-white Maine Coon with thick fur, but he was no match for a coyote that has been roaming Diamondhead neighborhoods.
The cat's owner, Virginia Simons, 68, has been looking for Sylvester since Saturday morning when she saw a coyote grab him in her driveway on Alakoko Drive. Sylvester got away, but she hasn't seen him since. In her efforts to find Sylvester, Simons has talked with neighbors and police who are aware that there's a coyote around.
In her search, she has learned that two doors behind her home, which is in the 6500 block of Alakoko Drive, a household lost a mother cat and two kittens last week, and an 18-pound cat disappeared from a home nearby a little more than a week ago.
"I have heard people have seen coyotes here," Simons told the Sun Herald on Sunday. "This is the first time I've had one in my driveway attacking my cat."
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Monday she plans to contact police, along with the state Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, "because we can't shoot them," she said.
Capt. John Luther, over the Diamondhead Division of the Hancock County Sheriff's Department, is aware of the issue and a step ahead of her.
He said he will let animal control know a cat has been attacked. He said there was a report of a coyote sighted a couple of weeks ago roaming near Kaiki Drive.
"Periodically they pass through and stay around for awhile," Luther said, and it's not unusual to have sightings several times a year. In the middle of Diamondhead, there are hundreds of acres of woods, he pointed out.
They're difficult to trap because they're smart. They don't usually go into dog traps and have to be snared, another officer explained.
Simons was there with Sylvester when the attack occurred. Coming face-to-face with the animal she described as "looking like a yellowish dog, as tall as a Labrador" has left her leery. Plus, it's been all weekend and she still hasn't found Sylvester.
"I think that because it was not afraid of me, it scares me," she said Sunday afternoon. "People with small pets and children ought to be wary. I'm still hoping to find Sylvester, he was alive and running the last time I saw him, and I didn't find blood or fur.
"I hope he'll come home," she said, "But I'm told, usually cats don't survive coyote attacks."
Vicious attack in daylight
It was 9 a.m. Saturday when the attack occurred.
"We were just in my backyard, there's a driveway to the garage in the back," she said. "We went out, and I was fooling with some bushes. Sylvester likes to help me in the yard by supervising.
"He was 20 feet away, I had my back turned, and heard a sound like growling and yowling, like something getting attacked," she said.
When she turned around, she saw the coyote had Sylvester's whole head in its mouth. Sylvester is furry, which probably helped him, she said.
"I ran toward them yelling and screaming. It let go. Sylvester ran," she said. She ran toward the coyote.
"I started throwing rocks at it, and it didn't want to back off," she said. She saw that her cat made it to the fence in the backyard and was able to run.
The coyote ran a little way into a wooded lot next door and stared at her, "like it was going to come back. This thing did not want to back off."
Simons has posted a sign in her yard that says "coyote attack."
Simons is a widow and Sylvester is like family.
He was a rescue and the previous owner had him de-clawed, so there's little chance he'll climb a tree to escape.
Sylvester is about 9 and gets along with raccoons, 'possums and foxes in the neighborhood.
"He's mellow," she said. "He doesn't chase the squirrels."
He likes to watch golf on the course that runs by her neighbors house across the street.
"Everyone knows him," she said.
He's independent, an outdoor cat when he wants to be, because he has a cat door.
He was living on the streets when she took him in more than four years ago, so she's hoping his street smarts will keep him alive.