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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

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="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "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.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. Happy Birthday, Walt Disney: Seven facts you may not know about the man

    Human Interest

    Today would have been Walt Disney's 116th birthday.

    Even today, it's difficult to escape the draw of his movies, the lure of his theme parks and the morals laid into some of the films he helped produce.

    So, in honor of what would have been his birthday, here are seven facts about him. Seven, because the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length animated movie he produced. Unless otherwise noted, the facts come from Richard Foglesong's book, Married to the Mouse. ...

  2. How do so many iguanas get in Florida toilet bowls?

    Wildlife

    Iguanas are commonly found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. In 2017, you could add "Florida toilets" to that list.

    So far this year, news stories reported that iguanas have turned up in Florida commodes at least five times — although there's reason to believe it's happened more often than that.

    What are they doing in the toilet? Besides the backstroke, that is? Trying to get out....

    Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Scott Mullin removed an iguana from a woman's toilet in Kendall outside of Miami in May. [Miami-Dade Fire Rescue via the Miami Herald]
  3. Green sea turtles had a baby boom this year — but other types of turtles did not

    Wildlife

    ST. PETERSBURG — Despite the way Hurricane Irma battered Florida's beaches, green sea turtles set a record for the number of nests on those beaches in 2017, according to preliminary statewide figures released last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    The state agency was so delighted by the numbers that it put out a news release touting the record. Biologists counted 39,000 green sea turtle nests full of eggs — up from 10,000 in 2010. That's a marked increase from 20 years ago, when state biologists counted only 464 green sea turtle nests....

    Green sea turtles set a record for its number of nests on Florida beaches &#8212; 39,000.
  4. Florida 10-year-old is one of 21 kids suing federal government over climate change

    Global Warming

    At age 10, Levi Draheim hates math and loves reading Harry Potter books. He plays the violin but dislikes practicing. What he really enjoys is paddling a kayak or going swimming. It helps that he lives just a five-minute walk from the beach in the town of Indialantic on Florida's east coast.

    "I'm the kind of kid who likes to be outside," he said.

    He's also one of 21 children across America who are suing the federal government for its failure to combat climate change....

    Levi Draheim, 10, from Indialantic likes to be outside. The lawsuit has a trial date in February.
  5. Oh, Florida! We should all be thankful for the lady accused of shoplifting while dressed as a turkey

    Perspective

    The 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 Leonhard and she lives in The Villages, the largest gated over-55 community in the world, a place where everyone rides around in golf carts, even people in turkey outfits....

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

    Wildlife

    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 and begins circling a clump of cypress trees.

    As the plane circles, Land, 58, listens on his headphones for the radio signal that tells him where in those trees a Florida panther is hiding. Once he's located the endangered cat, he signals to Graham to level off. As Land types the data into his laptop, they zoom off to search for the next target....

    A state wildlife biologist adjusts a radio collar on a sedated panther. Biologists have been taking radio telemetry readings on panther locations since 1981.&#65279;
  7. Florida's most endangered butterfly may not have survived Hurricane Irma

    Wildlife

    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 been spotted there, according to Marc C. Minno, co-author of the book Butterflies of the Florida Keys.

    Even if a couple more turn up there, Minno said, "they're doomed. They're found only on these isolated islands in areas that take the full brunt of hurricanes and sea level rise."...

    The male Miami blue&#8217;s wings are iridescent blue on top.
  8. Ghosts of bad decisions haunt Florida highway

    Perspective

    Let 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 would be a hangout for sinister shades, but it is. You find them all over Florida, from the haunted Pensacola Lighthouse up in the Panhandle to the infamous "Robert the Doll" on display in Key West, also known as "the original Chucky." ...

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.
  9. Florida's 'Turtle God' is ailing. What happens to his remarkable collection of specimens? (w/video)

    Wildlife

    OVIEDO — In a small town about five 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 inside that door and you'll find the largest private collection of turtle and tortoise specimens in the world — 13,000 individual pieces from 100 different countries, hanging on every inch of the walls and lining every table and shelf. Live ones crawl slowly around enclosures or swim in ponds around back....

    aThe 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.
  10. St. Pete mayoral candidate Rick Baker goes to church

    Blog

    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 in 2014..

    Baker entered shortly after the service had started, and brought with him his wife and a group of supporters: former Southern Christian Leadership Conference chapter president Sevell Brown, former assistant police chief Cedric Gordon, reitred police sergeant Al White.and retired major Donnie Williams. ...

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

    Water

    Rainfall from Hurricane Irma has pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee to its highest point since 2005. Now, with more wet weather in the forecast, nearby residents fear a collapse of the 80-year-old dike around the lake.

    As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries — exactly as it did last year, when those releases caused a massive toxic algae bloom that closed Atlantic coast beaches over the Fourth of July weekend....

    A 2006 photo of the Herbert Hoover Dike in Port Mayaca on Lake Okeechobee. The dike around the lake is classified as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. The earthen embankment on the south end is older, and thus more in danger of being breached, officials say. [Associated Press]
  12. Study: Dispersant used to clean 2010 BP oil spill harmed humans

    Water

    A first-of-its-kind scientific study has determined that the dispersant BP sprayed at the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 harmed human health.

    The symptoms — coughing, wheezing, skin irritations and burning eyes — tended to last only a little while for most of the people who were cleaning up the spill, said Dr. Dale Sandler, who's leading the study for the National Institutes of Health....

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

    Columns

    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on display, and it brought illness and death.

    We also saw heartwarming images of courage and kindness. We saw a nun with a chainsaw cutting up downed trees after learning about chainsaws on Google, and a man who gave up the last generator so that someone who needed it more could have it....

    A Fort Myers woman who'd recently undergone a double-organ transplant painted a sign that said, "HOT SINGLE FEMALE SEEKS SEXY LINEMAN TO ELECTRIFY HER LIFE" and sure enough, she got her power turned back on. [Photo from video]
  14. Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health

    Wildlife

    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 River of Grass ecosystem.

    HURRICANE IRMA: Read the latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times....

    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]
  15. Why Irma drained the water from Tampa Bay

    Columns

    Nobody could believe it. As Hurricane Irma approached Florida, Tampa Bay suddenly went dry. People hopped down onto the bay bottom, now a vast sandy expanse, and walked around, stunned.

    There are different terms for what happened: "a negative surge," "a blowout tide," a "water level set-down." Whatever you call it, what occurred in Tampa Bay was one of the five biggest ones ever, according to Texas storm surge expert Hal Needham....

    Scores of people walk on the sand of Hillsborough Bay along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa on Sept. 9. As Hurricane Irma approached, the water temporarily receded to an extreme level allowing people to walk on what used to be the waters of Tampa Bay. Tampa police later asked people to leave for their safety. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]