Since Illinois reopened its bobcat hunts in 2015, after a 40-year hiatus, trophy hunters and trappers have killed nearly 1,400 bobcats using some of the cruelest methods imaginable, like steel-jawed leghold traps. These devices are so painful that the animals sometimes gnaw through their own limbs to escape. If they aren’t dead after hours of suffering, the trapper often finishes the job by strangling, clubbing or drowning the animals.
Now, a new bill seeks to end such cruelty forever by prohibiting the trophy hunting and trapping of bobcats in the state.
We are proud to stand among a strong coalition of environmental and animal protection groups supporting House Bill 1827, introduced by Rep. Daniel Didech. This is a commonsense bill that seeks to end unnecessary suffering for these gorgeous native carnivores, and it is one most Illinois residents would support.
Bobcats are one of the only species hunted purely for sport in Illinois. Nobody kills them to put food on the table and they’re typically killed by trophy hunters for a thrill or by trappers who sell their pelts to overseas fur markets.
In Illinois, these small animals have a long history of being persecuted. In 1977, after being nearly wiped out in the state due to overhunting and trapping, they were listed as a threatened species, which ended the trophy hunting and trapping. They had only begun to make a slow and modest return when the state reopened hunting in 2015. And the killing has only gotten worse over the years. During the 2020-21 season, trophy hunters and trappers killed more bobcats than in any previous season – a total of 361 bobcats, including 143 by trapping. This was more than twice the number killed during the first season in 2016-17.
Illinois’s treatment of its bobcats is not wildlife management; it is a handout to trophy hunters and trappers. Bobcats regulate their own populations based on available prey and they do not need to be hunted to keep their numbers in check. Bobcats are also shy and elusive and do not pose a threat to humans. Even when they live semi-close to humans they rarely come into conflict with them. In fact, spotting a bobcat in the wild is an incredibly rare event and one that is to be treasured.
Lawmakers eager to open season on bobcats have held out ridiculous claims and resorted to some of the most dastardly fear-mongering. In 2015, one lawmaker pushing the hunt made the absurd claim that he saw a bobcat walking across his yard and he thought he was “looking at a saber-tooth tiger.” This lawmaker clearly needed a new pair of eyeglasses, as bobcats, who weigh between 15 and 35 pounds, are just slightly heavier than an average housecat. And most Illinois residents did not agree with him even at that time about killing bobcats. A poll held that same year showed that a whopping 78% of Illinois voters opposed the use of steel-jawed leghold traps to kill bobcats and 66% opposed all hunting and trapping of bobcats.
We are grateful to Rep. Didech for paying attention to what Illinois residents want, and for working to end the unnecessary persecution of bobcats. Were Illinois to pass this bill into law, the state would be in good company. In 2019, California passed a moratorium on bobcat hunting, and state agencies in New Hampshire, Indiana and Ohio have all rejected attempts to open a bobcat season in recent years. However, bobcats continue to be hunted for their fur or for trophies in 39 states.
If you live in Illinois, please let your state lawmakers know that you want to see bobcats protected in the state and urge them to vote “yes” on HB 1827. These beautiful wild animals give back generously to the ecosystems they call home, and their presence is vital for the health of Illinois’s wild lands and their other inhabitants. They do not deserve to be slaughtered for a pelt or for fun.
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