Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law adding black bears, cougars and wolves to Illinois' list of protected species.
All three species still are rare in Illinois, but wildlife officials expect them to become more common and wanted a way to protect them.
Jack Darin is director of the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter. He says the possible return of the large predators "is a sign that decades of investment and effort to restore natural habitat in Illinois and the Midwest are paying off."
He says the law was crucial to ensuring the Department of Natural Resources can manage the animals safely. He also says they're important to the state's ecosystems.
Wildlife officials say there's been an uptick in the number of bears, cougars and wolves entering Illinois, mostly from Wisconsin.