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January 19, 2020

Cat Tale: The Wild Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther by Craig Pittman ~ a Review

by Donna Huber



Once upon a time, I dreamed of being Dr. Donna so I went to graduate school, picked Florida panther recovery as my project, life happened, and I decided it wasn't really a direction I wanted to go in. But I did love my project and have thought about publishing my non-defended dissertation is some form. So when I saw Craig Pittman's Cat Tale: The Wild Wierd Battle to Save the Florida Panther, I had to pick it up - partly to see if I missed my chance and partly because I'm still very much interested in the subject.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.


Cat Tale The Wild Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther
January 2020; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335938800
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); nonfiction
Craig Pittman is a journalist so his book is not an academic type book. It is definitely written with a general audience in mind. With that said, if Cat Tale had been available when I was working on my dissertation, I would have read this book as it provides a great big picture view of Florida panther recovery.

Cat Tale is a quick read for a nonfiction fiction (it is even a quick read compared to a novel of the same length). The last 15-20% is bibliography, chapter notes, and an index. But the story itself is filled with colorful characters and sometimes nearly impossible to believe plot twists.

Most of the people Pittman mentions I knew by name, having read their published scientific papers. But he gave me personal insight into who these people are - their personalities, professional motivations, and even some personal conflict with other colleagues involved in the panther recovery. I even a glimpse at someone who served on my Ph.D. committee. If I knew he had served on the Scientific Review Team, I had forgotten.

Personally, I was really was interested in the "behind the scenes" information surrounding what I called "Maehr scandal". When I was working on my dissertation it was kind of still unfolding - at least the ramifications weren't fully known at the time. My concern wasn't so much about whether he played fast and loose with the data but whether his not fully supported (scientifically) theories on panther habitat would impact panther recovery. Of course, I was curious at the time as to why (and how) this could happen, but I didn't have the time to chase the story. So it was nice to have the "holes" in my knowledge of the story filled in. Pittman did note that Maehr died before he could interview him for the book, and while I feared at the beginning of this section that Maehr would be vilified without the ability to defend himself. However, I think Pittman gave him a fair shake by providing plenty of evidence from personal communications Maehr had with others, public records, and published interviews. While he did speculate on why Maehr did what he did, and could back up his conclusion, he left room for other possible reasons.

I'm happy to see that despite the ethical, environmental, and economic concerns (the topic of my dissertation), not to mention the political machine, the Florida panther is recovering from those early dire predictions when less than 20 panthers were suspected to have resided in Florida.

If you are interested in Florida panthers (or predator recovery), conversation efforts, or how science and politics work together (or not), then I definitely recommend picking up Craig Pittman's book.

Buy Cat Tale at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour



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