The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recently proposed changes to two sections of the Illinois Administrative Code that will allow for hunting and trapping of bobcats in southern and western Illinois. These rules are a result of the statute that passed last year.
Bobcats were listed as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977 to 1999. When the bobcat was removed from the list there was no follow up management, recovery or sustainability plan written or implemented.
IDNR’s current statewide population estimate of 3,000 to 5,000 bobcats is derived from non-scientific, anecdotal evidence supplied by hunters during deer hunting season.
The IDNR’s proposed rules will allow a person to trap or hunt bobcats during the proposed hunting season. The season limits one bobcat per person, but the proposed rules allow the IDNR to use its discretion in determining the number of permits that will be issued.
The IDNR does not have a management or sustainability plan for bobcats and is currently working off of a geographically limited and outdated study regarding bobcat populations, habitat, and overall viability of harvest. There is tremendous concern that this proposal does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection throughout the state.
The IDNR has done little to determine the current status of bobcats in the state and less to determine the true sustainability of allowing this important and recently threatened species to be hunted statewide. Though species can be delisted from the threatened and endangered species list upon reaching a certain level of recovery, instituting regulations allowing harvest before the species has reconstituted its available habitat range is premature and likely to reverse any progress bobcats have made.
Finally, the Illinois Wildlife Code requires that the harvest of bobcats in the state shall be non-detrimental. This requires that biological and management information demonstrate that harvesting bobcats is sustainable and that the removal of bobcats from the wild would not contribute to the over-utilization of the species, would pose no net harm to the status of the species, would not lead to long-term declines that would affect the viability of the population, and would not lead to significant habitat range loss or restriction. The IDNR has not demonstrated ability to meet any of these requirements.
Without additional science to show that hunting and trapping bobcats can be non-detrimental, these proposed rules should NOT be supported. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.
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