SPRINGFIELD — Illinois hunters could begin hunting bobcats next year under legislation approved in the Senate Thursday.
On a 30-19 vote, senators forwarded the proposal to Gov. Pat Quinn.
Supporters say the bobcat population has made a comeback since being removed from the state's threatened species list 15 years ago.
State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, who sponsored the legislation, said the population is growing in the rural, nonfarming areas of southern and western Illinois.
"This bill is about managing resources," McCann said. "Hunting equals conservation."
Hunting for the secretive, nocturnal cat was banned in 1972. The animal, which typically grows to about 20 pounds, was placed on the threatened species list from 1977 to 1999.
If approved by Quinn, the hunting and trapping season would occur sometime between Nov. 1 and Feb. 15.
And the state would allow a hunter to kill only one bobcat per year.
Opponents said there is not enough data available showing whether bobcats are truly a problem. Lawmakers could wait until the spring legislative session to further study the issue.
"I'm not sure why we're doing this right now," said state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora.
Holmes dismissed claims that the proposal was based on a need to manage the bobcat population.
"We're doing this for trophy hunting," Holmes said.
The legislation is House Bill 4226.