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Illinois Wildlife Advocates Want Stronger Bobcat Protections

After bobcat hunting was made legal in Illinois last year, animal welfare groups say the animals need increased protections. (iStockphoto)
After bobcat hunting was made legal in Illinois last year, animal welfare groups say the animals need increased protections. (iStockphoto)
April 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Wildlife protection groups are backing a bill that would ban the trapping of bobcats and the sale of their pelts in Illinois.

Last year, state lawmakers gave the OK to allow sport hunting of bobcats for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Marc Ayers, state director for the Humane Society of the United States, says the state hasn't done a good job of tracking the bobcat population and that traps could pose a problem.

"The problem is that trapping is indiscriminate," he says. "We don't want to see these cats put back onto the state's threatened species list by the same things that led to their demise in the first place."

Ayers says bobcats were on the endangered species list until 1999, so more research should be done before creating a market for their fur.

The bill (SB 2143) does not ban all bobcat hunting, rather it would only prohibit the use of traps and make selling and buying their pelts illegal.

The Sportsmen's Alliance, however, argues the move would make it harder for the state to manage a growing bobcat population.

Still, the bill's main sponsor, state Sen. Don Harmon, has said without precise data on the number of bobcats, it's difficult know exactly how well they're recovering. Ayers says by adding a few more protections, the state will have more time to conduct better research.

"It's concerning because there's still a lot that we don't know about bobcat populations," Ayers says. "The state of Illinois has no comprehensive report, there's no management plan for bobcats."

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources plans to make 500 bobcat permits available next hunting season, which will allow each hunter to kill one bobcat. Currently, their pelts sell for about $40.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL