NPR Story
4:33 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Will Cougars, Black Bears And Gray Wolves Be Protected In Illinois?

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 11:19 pm

The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources wants to add black bears, gray wolves and cougars to the state's list of protected species. But there is disagreement on how much protection should be given when there is a safety concern.

On November 20, 2013, a family near Morrison, Ill. asked state conservation police officers to kill a cougar found hiding under a building on their land.

In response, Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) sponsored legislation designed to protect predators native to North America.  Holmes said she heard an outcry from animal lovers in her area who embrace the rarity of a roaming big cat:

"For many years we didn't have them here in Illinois," Holmes said. "Now we're starting to find that some populations of these animals are coming into Illinois, and they are just being shot, without any recourse whatsoever."

Even if legislation succeeds in getting three more species of North American predators listed as "protected", they could still be legally killed in the future.

The Illinois Farm Bureau, defending landowners and their livestock, has successfully lobbied for two major changes: 

a) It shall not be illegal for an owner or tenant of land, or their agent, to immediately take on his or her property a Gray Wolf, Canis lupus; Amercian black bear, Ursus americanus;  or Cougar, Puma concolor if, at any time, the Gray wolf, American black bear, or cougar is stalking, causing a threat, or is expected to reasonably cause an imminent threat of physical harm or death to a human, livestock, domestic animals or structures on the owner’s or tenant’s land.

b) The Department shall establish, through administrative rule, the circumstances in which a Gray Wolf, American black bear, or cougar that is causing a threat to an owner or tenant of land or his property, that is not an immediate threat as included in subsection a) above, may be declared a nuisance and may grant a nuisance permit to the owner or tenant of land, or their designated agent, for the taking of such animal.

In other words, the proposed legislation now states that if one of these predators is "stalking" or "expected to reasonably cause an imminent threat" while on private land, owners are justified in pulling the trigger. If they aren't up to the task, they may ask the state kill a "nuisance" animal for them.

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