Battling for bobcats in Illinois and throughout the nation

By on November 11, 2016 with 18 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

This week, Illinois reopened its first bobcat hunt in more than 40 years. In the days to come, many of these small but beautiful creatures – only slightly larger than the average housecat – will be chased down by packs of dogs, shot with guns or bows and arrows, and violently clasped and placed in a vise-grip by unforgiving steel-jawed leghold traps. Not for meat, not for public safety, and not for farm animal protection. Just for the sport of it, and for their fur.

Illinois’ native carnivores – including bobcats – were once abundant, but then were wiped out because of unregulated hunting, predator control, and habitat loss. After being listed in the state as a threatened species in 1977, bobcats began a comeback and reclaimed some of their original habitat. Unfortunately, the state’s trophy hunters and trappers saw this restoration as an opportunity, rather than as a cause for celebration. Instead of resolving to maintain protections, state lawmakers, goaded by downstate colleagues whose rhetoric showed they were out for blood, passed legislation legalizing a hunting and trapping season for the first time since 1972. The bill narrowly passed in the Senate, but was defeated in the House. Downstate legislators stamped their feet, however, and got a re-vote, flipping Republican lawmakers from the Chicago suburbs and delivering a victory to the trappers and trophy hunters. Governor Bruce Rauner, to the disappointment of thousands of Illinois residents who wrote to him asking him to veto the bill, enthusiastically signed the legislation.

The beauty of bobcats is their greatest vulnerability – trappers and trophy hunters typically target them to make money from the sale of their speckled fur, often resorting to horrific killing methods, including bludgeoning, drowning, or strangling trapped bobcats, as bullets or arrows might damage the value of their pelts. Many of the pelts are sold to Russia where a bobcat coat can retail for up to $150,000.

The rationale used to defend this hunt was ludicrous for a number of reasons, including the fact that there’s never been a statewide population study. While lawmakers were debating whether to open a season on bobcats, one representative absurdly claimed that he saw a bobcat walking across his yard, and thought he was “looking at a saber-tooth tiger.” As bobcats typically average about 15 to 35 pounds, this amounted to nothing more than hyperbolic fear-mongering. Bobcats pose no risk to public safety.

A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research statewide poll of Illinois voters last year revealed that two-thirds of voters in the state oppose the trophy hunting and trapping of bobcats. That same poll showed that a whopping 78 percent of voters oppose the use of steel-jawed leghold traps to kill the animals, and 77 percent support a prohibition on the sale of their pelts. Thankfully, State Sen. Don Harmon has introduced legislation – S.B. 2143 – to do just that.

After passing out of committee earlier this year, S.B. 2143 is still pending, with a full vote in the senate looming. We’re grateful that Sen. Harmon and many other legislators continue to stand up for bobcats, and we thank them deeply for their ongoing commitment to protecting these animals. This bill can make the opening of the bobcat hunting and trapping season the last one ever.

Of course, Illinois is not the first state to allow a trophy hunting and trapping season for bobcats. Trappers and others are constantly trying to legalize hunts in states where they remain protected. Indiana is currently considering a bobcat trophy hunting and trapping season. Just last year, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission tried to legalize bobcat hunting, but thousands of residents voiced their opposition in response, and the proposal was ultimately withdrawn. This outpouring of opposition demonstrated the great power that residents have to truly affect change, and we must remain vigilant in our fight to keep bobcats, and other species, protected.

Let’s rally for the bobcats in Illinois, but in every other state, too, where they’re at risk.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Tamara Voris says:

    A great number of Illinois residents have not been able to even see a Bobcat and now they are being hunted? -and trapped? I would pay a fee as a citizen to allow Bobcats to exist and thrive in the wild…if revenue is the consideration. I am personally against the inhumane practice of trapping them for their fur. I also feel the hunt is premature and is not based on real science and studies of their real numbers. Premature…. Please end this hunt until real numbers are known.
    Traps are inhumane. Have you ever seen the results up close and personal?

    • Barry Therwhanger says:

      I farmed and ranched in Texas for over 30 years. On my mothers big farm there were bobcat familys. I saw them four times in thirty years. I’m sure they saw me everyday. We have mother cows who lay down to give birth unprotected. NEVER LOST A COW OR CALF TO CATS! Why are we killing these harmless cats? For the fur? Get fake fur. Cheaper and can’t tell the difference. No reason for this. If you are killing because the guys at the athletic club laugh when you come out of the shower you won’t be any bigger after the kill. Killing a twenty-five pound cat dousn’t make you a man. Standing up for those who can’t protect themselves does. Please stop. Make your children proud of you. Govener can we pay a fee to buyback their lives?

  2. Ian Giles says:

    Ready to help out. How do we proceed?

    • Wyoming Untrapped says:

      A call or email to your state representatives goes a long way in helping. They need to hear from the majority of people who oppose this instead of only hearing from the trappers.

  3. Keri says:

    I live in Illinois, but you didn’t give instructions on what I need to do to help this bill pass. A link to a form or something would be useful.

    • Wyoming Untrapped says:

      A call or email to your state representatives is the best way. Urge them to support the bill. They need to hear from the majority of residents who oppose this practice instead of only hearing from the trappers.

  4. Katherine Vick says:


  5. Lorraine M Durante says:

    Let’s save and protect these domestic wild kittycats!

  6. Kristin Combs says:

    Bobcat season opens here in Wyoming in four days on November 15. Bobcats can be killed by all the methods mentioned in the article in unlimited numbers until March 1. For only one $44 license, anyone can set an unlimited number of traps, almost anywhere they want and catch and kill as many bobcats as they want. It is unclear how many bobcats are currently present in Wyoming and lynx haven’t been spotted in the state since 2010. It’s extremely disappointing that Illinois is taking a huge step backward and putting more pets and wildlife in danger. We urge all residents of Illinois to call their Senator and advocate for the passing of S.B. 2143.

  7. Jennifer Duval says:

    All of this hating and MURDERING animals should never have started or allowed to begin with.

  8. Valerie Huey says:

    These are living beings that have the right to live. The only bodies that need that fur are the bodies born with it.

  9. Pam Moorman says:

    I oppose Bobcat hunting and trapping especially in Indiana and Illinois.

  10. David Delisio says:

    This is so barbaric, killing endangered animals for no reason other than to kill something. When can we act like a species of intelligence!

  11. Christine C Bigger says:

    Thank you for informative information on the subject of horrific, inhumane practices of BOBCAT HUNTING FOR PHELTS. I think it IS horrible, very cold-hearted, and an INEXCUSABLE PRACTICE…I never knew this was going n, and hope we can bring it to PRESIDENT-ELECT D.TRUMP for his support. I believe that President Trump, unlike too many before him, is interested in what we the people are concerned about, and it IS so refreshing to FINALLY have a REAL, PRESIDENT…FINALLY!!!!

    • alesia barnes says:

      Your president Trump has no regard for what is best for the animals or our environment. His sons are both big game and trophy hunters and I am sure that both of them would just love to bag a bobcat! There are pictures of them posing with their kills, water buffalo, leopard, pictures of one of them holding what appears to be an elephant tail. The environment and animal welfare both will suffer during the next 4 years,

  12. Nicola Gordon Bowe says:

    How can I add my name to combat this cruel legislation
    and try instead to protect these beautiful creatures?

  13. Joyce Battistone says:

    Governor Rauner approved the trapping and killing of Bobcats while 70% of the people opposed it. What do we have to do to have this overturned???

  14. Cathy Gianelli says:

    Your president Trump has no regard for what is best for the animals or our environment. His sons are both big game and trophy hunters and I am sure that both of them would just love to bag a bobcat! There are pictures of them posing with their kills, water buffalo, leopard, pictures of one of them holding what appears to be an elephant tail. The environment and animal welfare both will suffer during the next 4 years,

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