Davis: Bobcat scratch fever? Not for a while, it seems.

Posted4/5/2015 9:22 AM

I didn't realize we had a bobcat controversy until I saw a pitch to our editorial board, asking us to oppose a bill that would legalize the hunting of bobcats for the first time since 1972. Much e-discussion ensued.

One editor quickly pointed out we'd need to talk to the bill's sponsors and get the other side of the matter before taking a stand. More likely, he added, this would merit a story first. Ah, another editor chimed in, is this even a suburban story? Just how many bobcats are in our midst?


Well, it seems that a sighting of a bobcat near Wauconda a few weeks ago was rare enough to prompt Lake County Forest Preserve officials to take a hard look at photos of the creature. "It's got all the characteristics," Jim Anderson, forest preserve director of natural resources told the Daily Herald. "We're almost certain it's a bobcat."

Anderson also told us the district would be setting up cameras to, uh, shoot any bobcats, noting that the McHenry County Conservation District had, um, caught a bobcat on its "critter cam." Bobcats were taken off the state's endangered species list in 1999, and by some estimates their numbers have grown to 5,000. But it doesn't seem that there are sufficient numbers locally to support the hunting of bobcats; Anderson suggested the movement to do so had popped up in southern Illinois.

All this brings to mind the apoplexy brought on when deer numbers grew too big in the 1990s, and their culling was deemed necessary because deer were becoming a danger to themselves, the ecosystem and motorists. But when DuPage County began hiring sharpshooters to take down a certain number of deer, there was a hue and cry. A highlight of sorts came when Ted Nugent, rocker/guitarist and author of "Cat Scratch Fever," came to the county board and offered to set up a team to thin the herd with bow and arrow. The county did not take him up on his offer.

The coyote drama was even more personal about five years ago, when we began hearing reports of coyotes leaping over fences and snatching the family dog for a snack. But when Wheaton, the apparent epicenter of coyote activity, hired a trapper to calm the nervous citizenry, another hue and cry surfaced about the humanity of trapping and the people who do it. Responding yet again to the public outcry, the city knocked off that practice.

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All of this has pretty much died down. The DuPage Forest Preserve District in November started eliminating 395 deer from 23 forest preserves. No protests were waged. I'm guessing more and more people have seen firsthand what happens were deer and traffic merge. Not as many reports of coyotes snatching dogs, either. I'm presuming the dog-owning public has wised up and does a better job of keeping a close eye on their pets, especially small dogs.

In a follow-up story last year, we learned something interesting about coyotes: While it may seem their numbers have grown, what really has picked up is their chutzpah. Twenty years ago, they'd run off if a car door slammed. Today, not so; they've adapted to their new environment.

And in perhaps the most ironic turn, only a few months ago, we learned of a new wrinkle in the survival of the fittest: A pack of coyotes attacked a deer and pretty much devoured it on the front lawn of a West Chicago subdivision.

Now, that's brazen.


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