Five years ago, Illinois lawmakers trotted out a lot of ridiculous arguments to justify ending protections for bobcats that had been in place for 44 years.
They called the elusive animals, which have never been known to kill a single person, ferocious. They compared them to saber-toothed tigers. They conjured up unsubstantiated stories of bobcats raiding chickens and killing pet cats on farms.
The Legislature voted, by a razor-thin margin, to create an Illinois bobcat hunting season. This year’s season ended on Feb. 15.
Since bobcat hunting has resumed, more than 1,500 bobcats have been killed in Illinois, the Humane Society of the United States says. Before that, bobcats, which had been on the state’s threatened species list, had barely managed to recover from being overhunted in the past. Bobcat hunting remains illegal in Chicago and the northeast portion of the state.
The rush to end four decades of bobcat protections in Illinois was part of an ongoing and unwise assault on predator species in general in the United States. It threatens to upend decades of scientific efforts to return predator species to the land by balancing their needs with those of humans.