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Refuge lecturer to trace story of Florida panther survival

By Staff | Feb 21, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Florida author Craig Pittman follows the battle to save Florida panthers.

The cast of characters in “Cat Tale” includes a grizzled Texas puma hunter who decides he likes his prey better than the sheep he was hired to protect; a pioneering female scientist who once gave a dying panther mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; a museum employee who became known as “the Scat Lady”; a Native American tribal chief who killed a panther and ate its heart; and the fabled fragrant Skunk Ape.

The book’s author, Craig Pittman, will present two programs on Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. “Cat Tale” tells the true story of how the most endangered large mammal in America, the Florida panther, made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction – with the help of some biologists who had to fight their own bosses at times to save it.

Subtitled “The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Endangered Florida Panther,” Pittman’s fifth nonfiction book follows a long award-winning career as an environmental reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and acclaimed Florida author. His previous book, “Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,” won the gold medal for Florida nonfiction from the Florida Book Awards.

Co-sponsored by HighTower/Thomas & Swartz Wealth Management and Sanibel Carts, with support from the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, the free lecture series is held in the admission-free Visitor & Education Center’s auditorium.

Following the lectures, Pittman will sign copies of his books, which are available for purchase in the Refuge Nature Store. Sales from the book will benefit refuge conservation and education programs.

PHOTO PROVIDED “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Endangered Florida Panther,” by Craig Pittman

The remaining schedule, including some book signings, is as follows:

– March 6: Author and photographer Paul Bannick, “The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America’s Most Iconic Birds”*

– March 13: Upcycle Designer Nancy Judd, of RecycleRunway.com

– March 20: Author Eliot Kleinberg, “Black Cloud: The Great Hurricane of 1928″*

– March 27: Author Jack Davis, “All About Eagles and Other Florida Eco-Topics”*

– April 3: Jeri Magg, “Remarkable Women of Sanibel & Captiva”*

*book signing to follow

Seating for the lectures is limited and available on a first-come basis. Staff will hand out wristbands to those in line. Wristband wearers can save seats with personal items and then explore the center or Indigo Trail before the lecture starts. Saved seats must be filled 15 minutes before lecture’s start time.

DDWS will film most of the lectures and broadcast them on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/dingdarling. For more information, call 239-472-1100 ext. 241 or visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/lecture-and-film-series.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.