Craig Pittman, author of “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save The Florida Panther”

by | Jan 22, 2020

Craig Pittman—the veteran environmental reporter at The Tampa Bay Times, and author of multiple books, most recently, “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save The Florida Panther”—explains why, having written a 2010 Tampa Bay Times series about the Florida panther, “Dead Cat Walking” (which serves as the core material for the new book) almost a decade passed before publishing “Cat Tale.” Pittman notes that the gap was chiefly owing to the fact that the book he might’ve written sooner would’ve lacked a satisfying ending, and therefore didn’t strike him as a fully appealing project—until the panther situation changed in a significant way, providing the ending he felt was missing. (No spoilers here!) He describes the traits that make this cat so elusive and reclusive, and how other factors (developments, other elements encroaching on their habitats and so on) had exacerbated these traits, such that in the mid-90s, Pittman says, it was thought there were fewer than 20 panthers left. He recounts some the efforts that aimed for that population to rebound, including captive breeding of sorts, albeit with a decided twist. As with many Florida wildlife-oriented sagas, “Cat Tale” is replete with colorful characters and downright eccentrics, and Pittman addresses some of those folks. Including, in response to my question, Dave Maehr, a biologist who’s a pivotal presence through much of the book and, Pittman indicates, was deemed to have fudged or omitted research from academic papers and sometimes, in the employ of developers, had their best interests at heart over those of the panthers. The night before this interview, there was a new Facebook post—that became a lengthy thread—criticizing Pittman’s portrayal of Maehr, and defending him, noting, among other details, that Maehr wrote “a definitive book, ‘The Florida Panther: Life & Death of a Vanishing Carnivore.’ “ As for the question of his next book, Pittman says he’s leaning toward writing about the pythons that have invaded south Florida. (,,

The interview with Pittman streamed on Facebook Live:

ALSO: I spoke with Karen Ankerstar about the Retail Pet Sales Ordinance being considered for Hillsborough County (and that was to be discussed in a Commissioner’s meeting the next morning. Ankerstar, who some years ago helped get a similar law passed in Sarasota, explains that these ordinances are chiefly designed to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs that came from puppy mills and other nefarious breeders.

COMEDY CORNER: Matt Braunger’s “Panda Butler” (portion) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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