Illinois brought back the hunting of bobcats almost six years ago. Sightings of the animal have increased rapidly across the state. West Central Illinois appears to be the prime place to come looking for one during its regulated hunting and trapping season during the winter. Prior to 2016, the species was considered a protected species due to over hunting in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources Program Manager for the Wildlife Diversity Program Stan McTaggart says that the bobcat population and species is a true conservation success story. He says over harvest of the animals occurred due to a lack of any conservation laws. He says that over the past century the state was able to bring back several animals from near extinction by protecting their habitat, encouraging growth of population through monitoring efforts, and creating regulations on hunting and trapping.
McTaggart says that the West Central Illinois habitat along with bobcat prey population makes it an ideal place to hunt or trap bobcats as one of the state’s 14 fur-bearing species’ hunting seasons. Brown, Macoupin, Morgan, and Schuyler were all in the top 10 counties for harvested bobcat this year with double digits. It was nearly double what many had brought in compared to previous years’ harvest numbers.
Overall, for the 2021-2022 season, 290 bobcats were harvested by hunters and trappers. That number is slightly down compared to the previous year’s 339.
McTaggart says that bobcat are hunted and trap for a number of reasons. He says some people hunt and trap them because the last 6 years was the first time the animals were allowed to be hunted since the early 1970s. Others, he says, hunt bobcats due to being a nuisance on farm ground while others hunt and trap them for their fur despite the fur market being depressed for a number of years.
The bobcat season in Illinois runs from November 10th to February 15th annually, with the exception of being closed for firearm deer season. To find out more, visit this link.