On his last day in office, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn vetoed legislation that would open up bobcat hunting in the state for the first time since 1972. The bill, which had previously breezed through the state House by a vote of 91 to 20, and a much closer vote of 30-19 in the Senate, would allow wildlife officials to set a hunting season from November 1 to February 15 for bobcats. Governor Quinn vetoed the bill despite support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which argued that the species has since rebounded and now numbers around 5,000.

“With reliable sightings in 99 of 102 Illinois counties, it is safe to say that bobcats are adaptable and distributed widely,” stated a previous press release from the DNR. “Bobcats are moderately abundant throughout about half of Illinois, and research conducted at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale estimates that more than 2,220 bobcats are in the 13 southern-most counties. This is the highest concentration of bobcats in the state.”

Animal advocacy groups questioned whether the current population was high enough for sustainable hunting. Critics of the bill said it was pushed through with little scientific oversight and could return bobcats to the state’s threatened species list. After receiving petitions from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, Governor Quinn agreed and vetoed the bill on Sunday.

“We all have a responsibility to protect and maintain Illinois’ wildlife. Allowing people to hunt bobcats in Illinois violates that responsibility,” Quinn said in a statement. “Habitat loss and trophy hunting put bobcats on the threatened species list in 1977, and it was only recently that the bobcat population recovered enough to be removed from this list.

“Today I veto this bill because bobcats are a valuable part of Illinois’ ecosystem and continue to need protection.”

The bill was supported by hunters and conservationists who argued for a hunting season as a way of managing the state’s growing bobcat population. Like other predators their size, bobcats can be a nuisance and a danger to pets or small children. The bill restricted hunters to a bag limit of only one bobcat each season.

On Monday, Republican Bruce Rauner was inaugurated as Governor.

Image in public domain.

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