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.
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.
"In this delightful blend of scientific writing and good old-fashioned muckraking, award-winning journalist Pittman pens the absorbing tale of how the Florida panther was brought back from near-extinction. [...] The ups-and-downs in this tale of survival, coupled with the charisma of the panther, make Pittman's 'cat tale' hard to put down."
– Booklist (starred review)
"With a mixture of science, politics, personalities and the Endangered Species Act, Craig Pittman weaves an intriguing story, following the efforts to recover the Florida Panther from extinction. This captivating book builds a story around the science and touched on my own experiences with defending cougars and wolves. It drew me in with its humor, frustrated me with all the bureaucracy and forcefully presented a path for those who care to join and fight back before it's too late."
– Jim Dutcher, coauthor of The Wisdom of Wolves
"Craig Pittman has a remarkable talent for telling stories set in the Sunshine State that never fail to fascinate and entertain. Sure, Cat Tale has plenty of laughs and Florida weirdness, but Pittman has written a truly inspirational story about the panther's brush with extinction, and the human beings who were determined to save the species. You won't be able to put Cat Tale down."
– Gilbert King, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning, Devil in the Grove
"A fun, informative, and engaging read, Cat Tale is 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, author of No Beast So Fierce
"In this era of bleak environmental news, Craig Pittman's Cat Tale comes as a witty and passionate reminder that nature is robust – it wants to live! – and that we humans, with concerted effort, a wariness of cynicism and profiteering, and a certain ability to roll with frustration, can do a great deal to reverse the course we're on."
– Lauren Groff, author of Florida
"Expertly navigating the wild lands and political jungle of Florida, the preeminent environmental journalist Craig Pittman reaches out and grabs his reader like a panther. And you grab back. The story – sobering and stirring, mottled with irony and bits of humor – is too good to let go."
– Jack E. Davis, author of The Gulf
"A bright, intriguing story of people and panthers with strong appeal for readers interested in endangered species."
– Kirkus Reviews
"With clarity, insight, and heartfelt concern, Pittman effectively sheds light on conservation efforts in Florida for its official state animal."
– Publishers Weekly
"[A] fascinating, page-turning account [...] [this] ultimately hopeful, exploration of how the Florida panther recovered against the odds will appeal to those who enjoy reading about wildlife and endangered species."
– Library Journal
"Cat Tale is a prime study of excellence in environmental reporting and the ability to tell a compelling story to a wide audience."
– SE Journal
"A standout in the field of environmental writing [...] Cat Tale shows us Pittman at his best: passionate, earnest and sincere about our state, balancing his love for Florida with his need to tell us the truth about our failures."
– Creative Loafing
"[A] Remarkable work of longform reporting."
– The Revelator
"As in all good books, Cat Tale contains drama and an assortment of heroes and villains."
– Sarasota Magazine
"Environmental storylines that don't end in gloom are their own kind of endangered species these days, which is just one of the pleasantly oddball aspects of Cat Tale. [...] It's a punchy, riveting story."
– Garden & Gun
"Any fan of big cats will find in his pages an education, and a pleasure."
– Tampa Bay Times
"With clarity, insight and heartfelt concern, Pittman effectively sheds light on Florida's conservation efforts for its official state animal."
– Jacksonville Journal Courier