End bobcat hunting in Illinois

Nearly 1,700 bobcats have been killed since 2016, when hunting the animals was made legal. Yet the small, shy animals are not a danger to humans, and they help keep down the numbers of pests like mice, voles and rats.

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A bobcat walks along a path at the Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria.

A bobcat walks along a path at the Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria.

AP file photo

It’s been six years since Illinois legalized bobcat hunting, on the strength of wild and unscientific hyperbole that the shy, nocturnal animals — at 15 to 30 pounds, not much bigger than a large house cat — are ferocious creatures comparable to saber-toothed tigers.

Since then, state data from last month shows that nearly 1,700 bobcats have been killed by hunting or trapping, which commonly involves the use of inhumane steel-jawed traps that clamp down on an animal’s paw.

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Bobcats are not hunted for their meat, and hunting them is not necessary for population control either; as one expert explained to us, their population rises or falls depending on the availability of prey. As well, bobcats hunt small mammals typically considered pests, such as mice, voles, rabbits, hares and rats.

Far from being a dangerous threat, bobcats help to keep the ecosystem in balance.

After years of being protected as a threatened species in Illinois, their numbers rebounded enough to allow legalized hunting in 2016.

But as Samantha Hagio, director of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the U.S., told us, “Just because you have a healthy population doesn’t mean they need to be hunted.”

Bobcat hunting should end in Illinois. A proposal to do so went nowhere in the Legislature last year, but supporters of a hunting ban should not let that be the end of the story.

“No one’s killing them to put food on the table,” Hagio said. “They’re killed for trophies, hats, rugs [or to] sell their fur for profit.” Bobcats are not a threat to people or large livestock. And while they have been known to go after small domestic animals like chickens, enclosed chicken coops or similar solutions are an easy and effective deterrent.

In Indiana and Ohio, states where hunting remains popular, public outcry was strong enough to defeat bobcat hunting bills in recent years. Here in Illinois, state Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove, sponsored the 2021 hunting ban and says he hasn’t given up.

“We will continue to work to build support for that measure and will bring it to a vote when it can pass,” Didech says.

Lawmakers have plenty of pressing issues to settle in Springfield. A ban on bobcat hunting is not a top priority — but it’s still the right and humane step.

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