KEYSTONE — One afternoon in mid April, Cindy Adams heard rustling.
She knew there was a swamp nearby, so she didn't pay the noise any mind.
Then about 4:30 p.m., she looked up and saw what she initially thought were two big German shepherds.
A closer look revealed something else. Something unshaven. Something with big ears and a furry tail.
"It was the coyotes," she said.
Adams didn't know if she should stand still, run or scream.
"They just totally ignored me, went off the back end of the property and left," she said.
It wasn't Adams the coyotes wanted. It was Kissy, her now deceased Russian blue cat. And Bonnie, Christine Nance's dead black and white one. And Oscar, David von Thaden's late orange and white feline.
By the neighborhood's own count, at least three cats have died since April, when neighbors first spotted coyotes in this rural area. And at least one more is recovering after an encounter with the howling predator. Now, folks are packing up their cats, dogs and food and locking everything inside their homes and businesses before dusk.
"We're having to lock up every durn cat in the neighborhood, which is a hassle," said Mark Adams, a foreman at L&D Farms on Crescent Road. "That's the only time they like to get out and prowl around. Now they're sleeping during the day and trapped in the building at night. It's not really fair, but it's either that or they're gonna get killed."
On Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission couldn't confirm the number of missing or dead cats, but spokesman Gary Morse said "these incidents with depredation on free-ranging pets and livestock are not uncommon."
According to Morse, coyotes have been documented in every county in the state.
There's not much the commission can do about them, so folks in Keystone are starting to take matters into their own hands.
Every morning, Mark Adams hops in his golf cart and checks for coyote prints. After multiple coyote sightings were reported, he built a rack on his golf cart and slid a loaded .30-30 Marlin rifle inside.
"I'm going to have one of their heads on my golf cart one of these days," he said.
Two weeks ago, Tom Peterson, a hunter who has lived in Keystone for 30 years, used an electronic calling device that sounded like a distressed rabbit to lure the coyotes into shooting range.
"But they're smart," said Peterson, whose encounters with coyotes in Keystone dates back six or seven years. "They're very wary of humans."
The last time anyone saw a coyote was Father's Day, when Peterson spotted one crossing Tarpon Springs and Blake roads.
It's not that Peterson and Adams have anything against wildlife. Adams said he loves the deer, wild turkeys and pigs that roam through Keystone.
But "we don't love the coyotes," he said.
"If they want to live out here and leave everybody else alone, more power to 'em. But they're not going to come over here and start killing all the stuff that we like. Somebody's going to have to pay."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 269-5303.