Saturday, November 18, 2017


Craig Pittman

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, < a href=""> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Irene Leonhard, who lives in The Villages, put on a turkey costume to pass out candy at a Belk's store. She was arrested after police said surveillance cameras caught her swiping purses, an electric snow globe, jewelry and a waffle maker. [Photo courtesy of Irene Leonhard]

Oh, Florida! We should all be thankful for the lady accused of shoplifting while dressed as a turkey

he other day, I had a lovely chat with a lady who was arrested on charges of shoplifting ... while she was dressed as a turkey. I guess you could say that she’s been accused of doing the wrong kind of stuffing.The lady’s name is Irene...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
A male Miami blue butterfly is seen in this undated photo by Jaret Daniels from the Florida Museum of Natural History. The male Miami blue butterfly has an iridescent blue wing color, as seen here. Photo by Jared Daniels, Florida Museum of Natural History

Florida’s most endangered butterfly may not have survived Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma didn’t hurt the endangered Key deer, but it may have all but wiped out the most endangered butterfly in Florida.Since the storm passed through in September, only a single Miami blue butterfly, another resident of the Keys, has...
Updated one month ago
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.

Ghosts of bad decisions haunt Florida highway

et me tell you a ghost story.No, I’m not talking about some ectoplasmic special effect from Disney’s Haunted Mansion. I’m talking about a real ghost story. A Florida ghost story.You wouldn’t think a place that’s this bright and sunny...
Updated one month ago
A state wildlife biologist adjusts radio collar on a sedated panther. Biologists have been taking radio telemetry readings on panther locations since 1981, tracking their use of the South Florida landscape.  Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Three decades of panther capture-and-collar program may come to an end

500 FEET ABOVE THE BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE — Biologist Darrell Land holds his left hand out flat, as if he’s playing paper in a rock-paper-scissors game, then tilts it to the right. Pilot Don Graham banks the Cessna Skyhawk at a 45-degree angle...
Published: 10/23/17
Updated: 11/03/17
JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
The main room at the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida. - Peter Pritchard sounds British but he's lived in Florida for five decades, running the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida, which holds the world's largest collection of turtle specimens (some of them bones or shells, some of them live turtles or tortoises). Time magazine has declared him a hero of the planet and other turtle experts say he is to turtles what Dian Fossey was to gorillas. He's been instrumental in helping other species, too, including the Florida panther. He has traveled the world studying turtles.

Florida’s ‘Turtle God’ is ailing. What happens to his remarkable collection of specimens?

OVIEDOIn a small town about 5 miles from the University of Central Florida, there stands a two-story yellow house built in the 1920s. A modest sign mounted on the wall next to the front door says, "Chelonian Research Institute."Step...
Updated one month ago

St. Pete mayoral candidate Rick Baker goes to church

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayoral candidate Rick Baker took his campaign to Bethel Community Baptist Church on Sunday. It's not uncommon for politicians from both parties to stop in at the church and speak to the congregation -- Gov. Rick Scott visited...
Updated one month ago
Lake Okeechobee is seen from its northern shoreline in July 2016. As of Tuesday, the lake had hit 16.56 feet, the highest level since 2005. Officials fear if it gets much higher it will increase seepage through the lake's dike, causing it to fail. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

Lake O hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries and has  stepped up inspections of the dike to three to four times a week to make sure its continuing leaks don't grow to the point of endangering...
Updated one month ago
This image from a 2010 video provided by BP shows dispersant, white plume at center, being applied to an oil leak at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. A first-of-its-kind scientific study has determined that the dispersant BP used to clean-up the oil spill harmed human health. (AP Photo/BP PLC)

Study: Dispersant used to clean 2010 BP oil spill harmed humans

For most, the symptoms — coughing, wheezing, skin irritations and burning eyes — didn't last that long. But some in the study were still experiencing problems.
Updated: 2 months ago
A Fort Myers woman who'd recently undergone a double-organ transplant painted a sign that said,

Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us

We also saw heartwarming images of courage and kindness during Hurricane Irma. But this being Florida, of course, we saw some very Florida things happen too.
Updated: 2 months ago
Hurricane Irma destroyed 44 snail kite nests, capping off a poor mating season for the endangered species, which is seen as an important barometer of the health of the Florida Everglades. Their off-center beaks allow them to probe inside the spiral shells of the native apple snails. But the snails' population has dropped as the Everglades has changed. [MAC STONE | Audubon of Florida]

Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health

Hurricane Irma was as rough on some wildlife as it was on the humans. Audubon of Florida reported Thursday that the storm destroyed all 44 nests around Lake Okeechobee built by the endangered Everglades snail kite, a bird considered crucial to the...
Updated: 2 months ago