For the first time in nearly 40 years, Illinois hunters will be able to pursue bobcats again.

On Tuesday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill that will open up a limited bobcat season in 2016—much to the disappointment of animal rights activists. In a press release, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) heavily criticized Rauner for signing the bill.

“To get the bill passed through the legislature, lawmakers relied on absurd and outlandish exaggerations about bobcats—who are shy and elusive creatures that only weigh slightly more than an average house cat—and it’s unfortunate that the Governor apparently fell for this fear-mongering,” HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.

Opponents of the bobcat hunt have long argued that the population in Illinois was still too vulnerable to be hunted, despite statements to the contrary from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Supporters of the bill say that the bobcat population is growing out of control and now poses a public hazard. Rural residents argued that an overabundance of bobcats can be dangerous to young livestock, and hunters fear that the predators may be taking a bite out of turkey and deer fawn numbers.

“Bobcats once were common in Illinois,” said Bob Bluett, a wildlife diversity biologist with the DNR. “Habitat changes and unregulated harvests, before the birth of our state fish and wildlife agency, caused numbers to decline by the late 1800s. But now, we’re happy to say, they’re doing great.”

Bobcats face few threats in Illinois today and the vast majority of their deaths are vehicle-related. This has led to fears that the cats are growing too fast and moving into residential areas too frequently. According to the DNR, hunters can help in keeping the population stable through limited hunts.

“Hunters and trappers play an important role in managing resources and paying for conservation services, and Illinois homeowners should be given the ability to manage wildlife that are causing problems on their property,” Catherine Kelly, spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement to the Associated Press. “If at any time the species is threatened, the [DNR] will suspend hunting and trapping.”

Biologists predict that the limited hunt will have no effect on the bobcat population. Set to start next year, the season will run from November to February and carries a quota of only 300 animals. Once that quota is met, the hunt ends. The DNR acknowledged that trophy hunting once decimated the bobcat population, leading to the species being listed as threatened in 1977, and will be working to ensure that does not happen again.

Image from Sean on the flickr Creative Commons

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  • Eric Mills

    Shame on you, Governor! This is right up there with Canada’s annual baby harp seal slaughter. All this pain and suffering for a mere luxury item, one which looks far better on the bobcats than the heartless and vacuous men and women who wear them.

    • Esocidnator

      So using leather is OK but you can’t use fur? Apparently it is more acceptable if the hair is shaved off? Here in Michigan our bobcat population is not only thriving, it is expanding despite having both hunting and trapping seasons on them. Your lack of understanding of both wildlife management techniques and predator-prey relationships, is astounding.

    • Dennis Links

      My neighbor put a deer cam on a bobcat den and watched as it took 15 deer fawns in one year when deer were having their young! Get educated you idiot!

      • Chelsea Vincent

        Just Sunday night (November 9th), we were tracking a deer I shot and two bobcats were stalking us. We had to chase them away with a four-wheeler to get them off our tail. This took place in one grass field. Bobcats are becoming very numerous in our area in central Illinois, and I agree with a small hunting season to maintain the numbers.

  • sinbad

    I have no problem with hunting animals for food but this is ignorant.
    Go shoot targets and hone your skills for animals your actually going to eat. .What next neighborhood cats.

    • Esocidnator

      So you’re morally superior because you eat the animals that you hunt? The animals that I hunt to eat need to be managed by wildlife professionals, and predator controls are part of that wildlife management. How one utilizes that animal, as long as it was legally harvested, is none of your business.

  • Linus M Kiefer

    It is especially heart warming to see that our governor, house, and senate were able to get together on a very important matter of upmost importance in Illinois. Bobcats may not agree however. We as a land owner in Illinois will make the decision on who will hunt on our land. The Illinois DNR leaders has in my opinion puffed this whole thing up just so a few people can have a bobcat pelt. i really don’t rely on their information on this matter. The Illinois DNR has a lot of deticated employees. This decision was made by politicians not real scientist.

  • Ashley Lamparter

    This is a crock of crap! You want to let them hunt more.. Let them hunt the deer year round that cause numerous accidents, eat crops, etc. I live with a full blown hunter.. But he will not be killing a bobcat. This is ridiculous!!