Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther
Equal parts cautionary and alluring, Cat Tale is a story about which Craig Pittman warns, "This being Florida, there's going to be some weirdness sprinkled into this tale." The state's reputation as home to the bizarre is enhanced by Pittman's recounting of efforts to save Florida's official animal (and how that came to be is itself an oddity within oddities). A Tampa Bay Times journalist and author of several books about zany goings-on in his native state (Oh, Florida!), Pittman turns his environmentalist eye to the plight of the Florida panther.
Panthers (aka cougars, mountain lions, catamounts--all pumas) once ranged across North America, playing a crucial role in ecosystem health. As development expanded, so did conflicts between fierce predator, man and machines, until just between six and 20 big cats remained in the state. Those stragglers were in bad shape, and at risk of disappearing altogether by 2016. Cat Tale shares the extraordinary efforts of the individuals who set out to save the Florida panther from extinction.
As advertised, Pittman provides plenty of the peculiar, sprinkled liberally over absorbing science (and attempts to undermine it), dedication and courage (panther mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, anyone?), colorful heroes and villains, local lore and, naturally, political and governmental shenanigans. Pittman admirably distills decades of history and research with a reporter's acumen and a humorous soul. An enthralling story that begins with "a fussy archaeologist, a tiny wooden carving, and a wealthy playboy with a ninety-foot houseboat" ends up as a timely cautionary tale of what it takes to undo humanity's continuing ravaging of the Earth. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review