The Illinois Senate Agriculture Committee took an important step recently towards protecting mountain lions that wander into that state by voting 6-0 in favor of Illinois Senate Bill 3049, authored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora). Senate Bill 3049 would add wolves, black bears, and mountain lions to the Illinois Wildlife Code thereby giving them "protected species" status.
SB 3049 came into being after a November, 2013 incident when a family near Morrison, Illinois asked state conservation officers to kill a mountain lion hiding under an outbuilding on their farm.
According to Senator Holmes she heard an outcry from animal lovers in her area who embrace the rarity of a wild mountain lion.
"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."
At this time, mountain lions have no legal status in Illinois, and thereby no protection. Anyone who sees a mountain lion can kill it and not face any repercussions other than societies' moral condemnation. SB 3049, as originally written would add black bears, gray wolves, and mountain lions to the state's list of protected species.
However, recent amendments added by the Illinois Farm Bureau would restrict those protections and allow landowners or their tenants to legally kill any of these three species if they cause or threaten to cause "harm or death to a human, livestock, domestic animals or structures. . . "
And even if members of these three species do not meet the threshold mentioned above, they can still be killed if designated a "nuisance" animal by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
In the end, despite the added depredation and nuisance clauses, Senate Bill 3049 is a giant first step towards protecting mountain lions in Illinois and should be supported by everyone who believes that there's room in this world for both humans and wildlife.