Lawmakers passed a bill that would make bobcat hunting in Illinois permissible for the first time in more than 40 years.
Bobcats were on the endangered species list until 1999. They are still regulated by C.I.T.E.S. (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) and special permits are required for their possession, transport and sale throughout the United States.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the bobcat population in that state has grown to an estimated 5,000 animals.
In Illinois, advocates say the cats have become a nuisance in some areas, while opponents say bobcat hunting is about trophies and not food. The DNR says hunting will help long-term management of the species.
“The bobcat’s recovery is a true conservation success story,” said Chris Young, a DNR spokesman, noting department research that supports a hunting season.
Bobcats are believed to inhabit 17 counties, mostly in the southern and western portions of the state, where habitat provides food and protection.
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The bobcat bill passed overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 91-20 and in the Senate by 30-19.
Under the measure, bobcat hunting in Illinois would occur between November and mid-February. Hunters would require a permit from the DNR and be limited to one bobcat per year. The DNR would decide where and how many permits would be issued. License fees and other charges would pay for conservation and bobcat management.
“I can’t find any reason whatsoever for this hunting, other than trophy killing,” said state Sen. Linda Holmes.
State Sen. Sam McCann called the bill “a proactive response” to the bobcat’s recovery.
“It’s very similar to deer hunting, all about population management. This just happens to be a tool in our tool chest,” McCann said.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who leaves office next month, must sign the bill for it to become law. He has not yet indicated whether he will support it.
The state’s constitution requires any bill not returned to the general assembly by veto, or acted upon by the governor within 60 days of it reaching his desk, to automatically become law.