By Mary Kuhlman
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Animal-welfare groups are pleading with Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto a bill that would allow bobcat hunting in Illinois for the first time in four decades.
House Bill 352 reverses the state's ban on commercial trapping and sport-hunting of bobcats, a move supporters say is needed to manage the population. But Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, argued that the animals already once nearly were driven to extinction.
"The bobcats have been coming back," he said, "and they're part of the Illinois ecosystem, and they should remain that way and not be killed gratuitously - and in particularly inhumane ways, with steel-jawed leg-hold traps or chasing them with packs of hounds."
The measure passed the House and is sitting on the governor's desk. Others urging him to veto the bill include the Illinois Environmental Council, Sierra Club Illinois and several newspapers.
Pacelle said bobcats are small, elusive creatures, yet he believes lawmakers are painting a negative view of them as menacing predators and exaggerating their size.
"Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) said that he saw one walk across his backyard and he thought it looked like a saber-toothed tiger," Pacelle said. "Another said that bobcats can get to 60 pounds. The policy of the state should not be driven by this exaggeration or fabrication. "
Bobcats were on the state's threatened-species list from 1977 to 1999. Last year, lawmakers attempted to overturn the ban on hunting, but then-Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the bill.
The bill is online at openstates.org. Audiofile.