Big cats are returning to Illinois, after decades of decline due to hunting and habitat loss. Illinois is currently home to a few cougars, and a growing bobcat population, which the state general assembly considers to be good enough news that they’re working on lifting our bobcat hunting ban.
Illinois banned bobcat hunting back in the 1970s, when they ended up on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and overhunting. Downstate, people are supposedly upset about bobcats threatening livestock and pets, as the cats apparently grow out of control. In the northern part of the state, people are worried that lifting the bobcat hunting ban will return them to the threatened species list, or worse, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Illinois lawmakers used scare tactics to convince others to vote for lifting the bobcat hunting ban
The bill to lift the bobcat hunting ban went to Governor Rauner’s desk three days ago, with groups petitioning him to veto it, just as Governor Quinn did five months ago. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune talked about just how the general assembly pushed the bill through, with various lawmakers using scare tactics to make their arguments. Representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) said:
“Imagine a bobcat that’s 60 pounds that could attack and kill something 10 times its weight. Think of a small child or a small woman or a small boy that could be attacked and carried away. That’s why we kill these things. That’s why we hunt them.”
This is utter nonsense, as bobcats are not nearly that big. The average northern bobcat, which is what we have here in Illinois, is 20 to 30 pounds, max. They’re not that much bigger than the domestic house cat. They’re able to hunt animals as big as deer, but their preferred prey is rabbits, rodents and birds.
Rep. Sullivan was not only fear-mongering, he either got his facts wrong, or he was outright lying to scare people into voting to lift the bobcat hunting ban. The op-ed in the Tribune rightly mentions that bobcats are shy of humans, which is quite true. When they have the option, they will avoid us, rather than confront us, let alone hunt us. They do not stalk humans; not even children.
Clayton Nielsen, a wildlife biologist from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, says that bobcats are no threat to people.
“Bobcats are active mainly at dawn and dusk, and have no desire for a fight. The bobcat’s story is the same as for most wildlife: if they can flee, they will.”
The real reasons hunters want the bobcat hunting ban lifted
The biggest reasons that people want to hunt bobcats are because they make good trophies, and because their pelts are valuable. The state’s bobcat population is 3,000 to 5,000 now, which is what lawmakers have decided is a good number to warrant lifting our bobcat hunting ban.
Let Governor Rauner know he should veto this bill
Many groups have filed petitions to pressure Governor Rauner to veto the bill. The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club has asked people to write to Rauner and tell him to veto the bill. The Humane Society of Illinois has a form you can fill out and send directly to the Governor’s office, asking him to veto it. He has not yet signed it, so there’s still time to tell him to veto the bill. Click here to sign the Humane Society’s letter and let Bruce Rauner know that you stand with Illinois bobcats, and against people who want to hunt these creatures back onto the endangered list.
**Please note: You may have to be a resident of Illinois to send this letter, so if you can’t sign it and send it yourself, please pass it on to people who can.**