If you think you might want an Illinois bobcat license, pick a number and plan on going home empty handed.
In a story highlighting the success of conservation efforts, Illinois bobcat licenses are being sold for the first time in 40 years.
After considered a threatened species in the state, bobcats were delisted in 1999. Like many species coming off similar lists, bobcats were still not able to be harvested due to legal battles oozing their way through the court system. Finally in 2015, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation into effect that would allow managed bobcat harvests to begin in 2016.
With a statewide population estimated at 5,000 cats, Illinois game management officials put up 500 bobcat licenses for lottery. Anyone who obtained one of these licenses will be free to hunt, trap, or salvage one bobcat during the upcoming season. All in all, 6,416 permits were applied for during the period open through the month of September. That gave folks who applied about a 7% chance of drawing a tag.
As with all things, the Illinois bobcat license was not met with open arms by all citizens of the Prairie State. In fact, some of the applications were filed by animal rights proponents who planned on tossing the license in the trash if they receive one.
The license may also face a renewed legislative battle as certain Illinois state Senators, such as Don Harmon, seek to pass legislation to ban the sale of bobcat pelts and make bobcat trapping illegal.
Although outdoorsman of Illinois can celebrate their upcoming bobcat season, and a few will likely even harvest a cat, and they would be wise not to rest to comfortably on the victory. Nebraska recently went through a similar situation in which a mountain lion season was opened in the northwest part of the state, and then summarily closed the next year. Nebraska is conducting further research into its mountain lion population and may once again run a season in the next few years, but it has not been an easy road.
Count yourself lucky if you can get your hands on this highly competitive license. If you are able to land one, you've won the opportunity to try your hand at nabbing one of the most elusive creatures on the continent. Hopefully this initial bobcat season will be the first in many future hunts for the good hunters and trappers of Illinois.