Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Coyote proposal amended; bobcat measure moves on

Springfield — A proposal that would allow crossbow hunters to have an open season on coyotes appeared ready to advance in the Senate – but only after an amendment added language limiting the bill.

Senate Bill 1422, which passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 19, originally stated that “any person may use a crossbow to take coyotes at any time.” An amendment filed on March 12 changed the language to state that “a person may use a crossbow to take coyotes at any time that it is legal to use a bow and arrow to take coyotes.”

Filed by Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, the bill awaits hearings in the Senate.

Meanwhile, legislation to allow bobcat hunting season also made progress. The House Agriculture and Conservation Committee on March 24 approved House Bill 0352, which  is nearly identical to the 2014 proposal that passed through the General Assembly before being vetoed by former Gov. Pat Quinn the day before he left office.

DNR Director Wayne Rosenthal supported that legislation when he was a state representative.

Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, chief sponsor of HB 0352, noted that bobcats are becoming a nuisance in rural areas.

“At one time they were protected, but there’s getting to be too many in certain areas,” he told the (Springfield) State Journal-Register. “This bill here will allow them to be trapped and hunted, but if there’s not a significant population, it’s up to the discretion of the DNR of what counties would allow hunting.”

Rosenthal said the fact that Quinn rejected last year’s legislation – Quinn was reportedly lobbied by several environmental groups before his veto – shows that there is not a lot of education or accurate information about the bobcat.

“Areas that don’t have bobcats don’t understand – they think they’re just kittens and domestic cats, but they’re predators,” Rosenthal told the State Journal-Register. “What we want to do is be able to manage them.”

Quinn said he vetoed the 2014 legislation because “bobcats are a valuable part of Illinois’ ecosystem that should be protected.”

“We all have a responsibility to protect and maintain Illinois’ wildlife,” he said in a statement. “Allowing people to hunt bobcats in Illinois violates that responsibility.”

Illinois banned bobcat hunting in 1972 after the population was decimated by habitat changes and unregulated hunting. The animals was on Illinois’ threatened species list from 1977 to 1999.

A recovery began and DNR now estimates the bobcat population has grown to 5,000 statewide. Most are found in southern Illinois regions, though a number of recent reports have come in of bobcat sightings in central and northern Illinois. In early March, a bobcat spotted by a Wauconda resident near a Lake County Forest Preserve created quite a buzz in the northern region.

DNR and supporters of a bobcat hunting season said the need to control the population is actually a conservation success story – a success story that still has plenty of chapters to be added. Managing the population is critical to maintaining healthy numbers of the predator.

As part of that management effort, DNR would be the agency that would determine how many permits are issued to Illinois hunters each year. That decision would be based on surveys. 

HB 0352, which was expected to have a second reading on the House floor on March 25, would amend the wildlife code to allow hunters to kill one bobcat in a season that would run Nov. 1 to Feb. 15. 

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