Here’s why Illinois should allow bobcat hunting

Here’s why Illinois should allow bobcat hunting

I am jumping on the bandwagon to write about the bobcat bill. The governor is taking his time in making a decision on whether to allow hunting of bobcats for the first time in over forty years in the Land of Lincoln. During that time, opposers of the bill are getting pretty loud and ideas from celebrities, national organizations, city folk, country folk and politicians are filling editorial pages of newspapers across Illinois.

In fact, a survey of 625 Illinois voters at the beginning of the month showed 75 percent of voters want a veto of the bill. The bill itself barely passed both houses, for the second time this year, before going to the governor for a final decision.

With the birth of a couple versions of the reintroduction of bobcat hunting born right here in Macoupin county by our own state representatives and senators, it is a topic that could hit close to home for all of us.

Some people, you can tell have not read the bill or are not familiar with how it will work logistically. Those that are adamantly against it are actually, I am betting, against all hunting.

Whether we decide to add bobcats as a huntable species in Illinois now or later; it will need to be done someday, and I don’t think now is so awful of a time do it.

Yes, the bobcat was threatened. Now they are not. Are they a nuisance as some claim? No. And the stats do not support such claims. Three nuisance permits issued last year and nine the year before is hardly worth mentioning.

I spoke with several folks at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the opposition is correct; there is no need for large numbers to be harvested. That is exactly why there are strict limits that will be enforced. The negative effects some politicians are trying to use in their arguments for allowing a season are nonexistent and hurting their credibility.

Are they vicious people killers, as Rep. Ed Sullivan from Mundelein claims? No. Not a single human death by bobcat has ever been reported. Also, the dramatic claim of a 60-pound cat is a bit farfetched.

Many urging for a veto claim hunting them is unnecessary since bobcats don’t make a good meal. This is nothing but the lame old hunting for food argument. Raccoons and opossums, coyotes, crow and fox have a season, but I don’t see too many hunters boasting of a freezer full of their meat after a successful hunt.

Then there’s the trophy hunting argument. Yes, if a hunter harvests a bobcat it would be quite an accomplishment. Just as calling in a turkey or making an awesome quail shot is an accomplishment. Being successful at your sport or craft is satisfying. Again, those that use the trophy argument probably don’t support hunting in any form.

I have read some folks think greedy pelt hoarders are behind the bill. The majority of states allow bobcat hunting, and while the market may fluctuate, other state’s hunters are fetching less than $50 a pelt and exceptional quality pelts may demand a price nearing the $85 mark. A hunter will be limited on the riches he will make off bobcat pelts with the single permit Illinois will allow him or her.

IDNR is proposing strict permit numbers, less than 10 percent of the total population, which must be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the “harvest is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.”

A valid point brought up by blogger Rick Bohning, who points out that wildlife is allocated to all people. A portion of it is allocated to hunters; and if the animal population is sustainable, hunting it is a hunter’s right.

Hunting is a sport and most hunters are the greatest stewards of the land and mindful conservationists. Not a single hunter wants to hunt a species to a threatened status, much less extinction.

The bill is aimed at giving hunters a chance to practice population control using their sport. Too bad such talk is not going on about increasing the incentive for harvesting coyote and foxes; maybe even control of hawks and owls. Those predators are the ones that are overpopulated and have unwittingly pinned the blame of small game decline on bobcats.

The minimal numbers that will be allowed to be harvested by IDNR will not be detrimental to the population. While the nuisance claims are (cough, ahem) bologna, the chance for hunters to harvest a bobcat should not be denied at this time. And with our own local legislator turned IDNR Director, Wayne Rosenthal, at the top; I think the interest in a thriving, sustainable population will be looked out for.

By Kathleen Clark