Lemont, Ill. — Dave Nies was enjoying a spring turkey hunt when “blatant wildlife” happened along. The Lemont resident made a few “clucks” and “purrs” and then to his left he heard a scratching noise. Nies glanced over and, with more than a tiny bit of stupefaction, discovered that a giant and menacing bobcat had sneaked up to within 10 feet of his person.
“Holy cow!” Nies recalled screaming on the inside. “He was staring at my hen decoy. I put my slate call in my lap and lifted my shotgun. That was enough motion for him to look right at me. As he stuck his face out toward me, I thought he was going to pounce on me and so I took the shot. Talk about an adrenaline rush. I was in a tight spot!”
The shot took down the bobcat, which cannot be hunted in Illinois. But here’s the thing: Nies was hunting down in Texas, where locals where pleased with him shooting the predator.
But Nies’ experience brings up some interesting questions as hunting seasons get underway here. With new laws in effect restricting the shooting of feral hogs and new laws protecting bears, wolves and cougars set to take effect in 2015, hunters who find themselves in Nies’ situation may have to stop and do a quick read of the Illinois Wildlife Code.
DNR spokesman Chris Young noted that legal protections for black bears and cougars take effect Jan. 1. Until then, these animals do not have protection under the Wildlife Code. He pointed out that the gray wolf is listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service south of Interstate 80. Because it is federally listed, it is automatically listed statewide.
“Hunters should be aware it is illegal to shoot a gray wolf,” Young said.
But what about a hunter who, like Nies, finds himself in a “too close for comfort” situation.
“When the new rules take effect, black bears and mountain lions may not be taken unless they pose an ‘imminent threat’ to lives or property,” Young said. “Landowners also will be able to apply for nuisance permits to deal with nuisance animals. Rules for taking a gray wolf will be more stringent under endangered species law.”
Young provided exact language of the new law, which states that it will not be illegal for an owner or tenant of land to immediately take on his or her property a gray wolf, black bear or cougar if the animal is “stalking, causing an imminent threat, or there is a reasonable expectation that it causes an imminent threat of physical harm or death to a human, livestock, domestic animals or harm to structures or other property on the owner’s or tenant’s land.”
Simply turning hunters loose on wild pigs in Illinois is not an effective method of controlling the population. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.
Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 1999, but there is no open hunting season on them in Illinois.
New feral swine regulations
Social media was abuzz in September as bowhunters reading over their new Illinois Hunting Digest took note of the new law making it illegal for them to shoot a feral swine – also called a wild hog – during the archery season.
A new administrative rule regulating the release, transportation, and harvest of feral hogs in Illinois was put into effect this summer. The rules allow hunters to harvest feral swine only during the state’s firearms deer seasons. The rule is designed to help DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture manage the hogs and deter those that would seek to establish and promote hunting of feral swine in the state.
Simply put, it is now illegal to hunt or shoot feral swine outside of the firearms, muzzleloader, late-winter antlerless and CWD deer seasons.
The law apparently caught many hunters off-guard. Discussions on the Illinois Whitetail Alliance Facebook page questioned the new regulations, with some hunters commenting that they would shoot a wild hog with a bow and arrow if one came under their treestand.
One of the primary reasons for restricting the harvest of the swine is to discourage outfitters from releasing hogs in order to stir up new business.
Another reason is that the wild hogs are very intelligent – and react differently from other game animals when confronted.
“Let’s say a hunter sees a group of 10 swine, and he shoots two of them. The other eight flee and scatter. They may go as far as two miles in different directions. Suddenly, you have formed new groups of pigs that are doing more damage in a bigger coverage area,” Scott Beckerman, state director for the USDA’s Wildlife Services program in Illinois, explained.
According to Beckerman, surveys filled out by deer and turkey hunters around the state each season has helped Wildlife Services and DNR track and monitor the swine. He also pointed out that educating hunters and the public about the threats posed by feral swine has been an important tool.
Feral swine, which have an exploding population in the U.S., are detrimental to wildlife habitat.