On May 31st HB352, a bill to allow bobcat hunting in Illinois returned to the House for a vote on concurrence. We opposed the bill as written and asked the Department to include in the legislation provisions for 1) the development of a management and sustainability plan based on scientific studies, including a recovery plan for continued growth of bobcat populations and return of stable populations into all prime bobcat habitat areas statewide; and 2) limits to the areas of the state where bobcat hunting permits could be granted.
Instead, the Department came back with a weak, one-sentence amendment stating that the harvest of bobcats in this state shall be non-detrimental as defined by federal regulations and as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the federal regulations do not call for a science-based management and sustainability plan, but rather a population estimate based on animals killed.
We will continue to oppose a bobcat-hunting program in Illinois until:
- Scientific evidence exists that there is a need for reducing bobcat numbers.
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources develops a management and sustainability plan based on scientific studies, including a recovery plan for continued growth of bobcat populations and return of stable populations into all prime bobcat habitat areas statewide.
- The State can demonstrate that the meager $5 permit fee would completely cover the cost of operating the program.
The primary reason lawmakers give as to why bobcat hunting is needed in Illinois is that bobcats are a nuisance. Yet, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to back that up. We’ve heard from supporters of the bill that bobcats kill livestock and are decimating the deer and turkey populations. We’ve even heard that bobcats weigh 60 pounds and stalk small children! But, the truth is:
In 2013 only 9 nuisance permits were issued and in 2013 only 3 were issued. Bobcats’ preferred diet is rabbits, voles and squirrels. In necropsy studies looking at the stomach contents of dead bobcats, researchers have rarely found deer. Scientists further speculate that the limited deer that bobcats do consume is carrion deer, that is dead deer that bobcats find during hunting season or roadkill deer. Additionally, few birds were found in necropsy investigations, and those that were found were primarily songbirds–not game birds, such as turkey.
A large male bobcat can reach 30 to 35 pounds, with females weighing in much less. Bobcats are shy, secretive creatures that do not have any interest in being near or stalking people.
Lack of Science-based Management Plan
Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not have a management or sustainability plan in place for bobcats and most of the related research has been conducted in the southern region of Illinois, south of I-64. There is tremendous concern that this plan does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection in Illinois at a statewide level.
Without a proper, scientific management and sustainability plan the wildlife code should NOT be amended to allow the removal of the prohibition of taking bobcats. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.
Cost to State
The bill states that the fee, if any, for a permit to hunt or trap a bobcat will not exceed $5. We question how this low fee can even come close to covering the costs to the Department of Natural Resources of running the program. How can Governor Rauner justify signing HB352, which will cost the state money, at the same time he has announced that State Museums will be closed and programs like OSLAD will not receive funding?