“Witty and passionate.” —Lauren Groff
“Craig Pittman has a remarkable talent for telling stories set in the Sunshine State that never fail to fascinate and entertain.”—Gilbert King
“The definitive book on one of America’s least understood apex predators. The story of how Florida’s panthers were saved from extinction is one that both deserves and needs to be told.” —Dane Huckelbridge
It wasn’t so long ago when a lot of people thought the Florida panther was extinct. They were very nearly right. That the panther still exists at all is a miracle—the result of a desperate experiment that led to the most remarkable comeback in the history of the Endangered Species Act. And no one has told the whole story—until now.
With novelistic detail and an eye for the absurd, Craig Pittman recounts the extraordinary story of the people who brought the panther back from the brink of extinction, the ones who nearly pushed the species over the edge, and the cats that were caught in the middle. This being Florida, there’s more than a little weirdness, too.
An engrossing narrative of wry humor, sharp writing and exhaustive reportage, Cat Tale shows what it takes to bring one species back and what unexpected costs such a decision brings.
|Publisher:||Hanover Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Craig Pittman is an award-winning journalist at the Tampa Bay Times and author of 4 books, including NYT bestseller Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country. His journalism has won 4 Waldo Proffitt Awards for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida. Twice he won the Society of Environmental Journalists' top investigative reporting award. He was named a Florida Literary Legend by Florida Heritage Book Festival in 2020.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Cat Under Glass 11
Chapter 1 The Cat of God 20
Chapter 2 Pantherland 34
Chapter 3 The Hunter 44
Chapter 4 The State Animal 57
Chapter 5 Mouth to Mouth 73
Chapter 6 The Turbo-Vet 82
Chapter 7 The New Mr. Panther 96
Chapter 8 Medicine Man 105
Chapter 9 Bottleneck 120
Chapter 10 "Extinction Is God's Plan" 128
Chapter 11 The Vortex 137
Chapter 12 The Captives 150
Chapter 13 Hail Mary 158
Chapter 14 "Florida Will Be Developed" 172
Chapter 15 Mr. Influential 190
Chapter 16 The Showdown 202
Chapter 17 The Verdict 223
Chapter 18 The Whistleblower 238
Chapter 19 The Skunk Ape's Scapegoat 248
Chapter 20 The Wanderers 266
Chapter 21 Cat Cam Bingo 278
A Select Bibliography 293
Notes on Sources 295
Readers are encouraged to pay attention to the subtitle of Craig Pittman’s Cat Tale: the wild, weird battle to save the Florida panther – because there is a great deal of weird to be found within the pages of this book. Like other similar titles (William Stolzenburg’s Heart of a Lion, for instance) Pittman lays out the relevant facts about panther the panther’s biology, ecology, and habitat. He traces the panther’s story from its days as a tragically understudied state animal, to near extinction, to revitalization through breeding with imported Texas panthers, to the dispersal of males that scientists hope will establish new pockets of panthers and claim new territories throughout the Southeast. However, the focus of this book is much less on the panthers themselves than on the passionate, sometimes bizarre, and often combative personalities that fought to save them – or created barriers for those who were working to save them. Readers will learn about scientists who jettisoned their data in order to cede protected lands over to developers, about government agencies that failed to demarcate land that needed saving, and about science revolving around genetic unsoundness that failed to gain traction and led to failed (and rather tragic) captive breeding attempts. Pittman writes, “I have read that some people claim that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is the greatest conservation victory in US history. Compared with what it took to reel panthers back from oblivion, though, I don’t think so.” Thanks to his writings, it is hoped that readers will now know about this conservation battle – its victors, its victims – and hopefully conservation efforts will increase as a result.
Raise your hand if you knew Florida was home to an endangered panther population. After spending the majority of my life thinking the name of the Florida Panthers hockey team was a bizarre non sequitur, I knew as soon as I saw this book on NetGalley that I had to request it. Cat Tale does not disappoint: it's a bizarre and unexpected look into the long fight to save Florida's state animal, a creature that many developers and politicians would prefer to see either shot or pushed out of its territory by land construction. Craig Pittman tackles the tale of the panthers with an ear for puns and a clear relish for the strange twists and turns the fight takes. His breezy storytelling turns what could have been an incredibly grim topic into a light, even fun affair as he winds through the preservation history's blunders and successes. It's not all perfect for either the reader or the panthers: the amount of bureaucracy Pittman details towards the end of the book is both distressing and taxing to get through. Unfortunately it wouldn't be a story of an endangered species without an endless parade of suits attempting to justify their detrimental actions towards it, something Pittman is coyly aware of throughout the narrative. Recommended if you've never heard of this obscure subspecies for sure. **I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada)**