Florida's state animal has never had it very good. The Florida Panther was shot at, run off its hunting grounds and hemmed in by roads and development. It got so bad that by the early 1990s, only a handful remained. The tale of how the panther was led back on the road to recovery has several twists and turns, including a "happy ending" that has taken 20 years to materialize.
The story is told by environmental reporter Craig Pittman in his new book, "Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle To Save The Florida Panther." He talks about the book with WUSF's Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham.
Author Craig Pittman, who has worked for the Tampa Bay Times, takes a deep dive into the history of the Florida Panther, from its status as the "Cat of God" by the state's indigenous tribes through its near-extinction at the hands of hunters, road builders and developers who coveted its hunting grounds.
Along the way, he tells the tale of how a small but dedicated group of biologists came to understand the panther's plight, and how their eventual rescue was aided by one hunter in West Texas who helped replenish the biological diversity of the native species.