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Bill Brings Protections to Predators (The Fuzzy Kind)

By JoshMogerman in News on Aug 24, 2014 7:30PM

Black bear cub [MiguelB]

At times, our glass and steel paradise at the edge of Lake Michigan seems to be an entirely engineered system with little room for nature beyond our limited patches of grass. But make no mistake: there is wildness all along the margins of Northern Illinois; in the City, the burbs and farther flung communities throughout the region.

One of the most interesting aspects of “nature finding a way” is in the quiet critter return that is underway all around us. After exterminating most of the wildlife native to the region through the 19th century, our resulting animal ambivalence has opened the door to their return.

Otters are back in our rivers. Bald eagles are again nesting within Cook County's borders. Pictures of mountain lions have popped up in wildlife camera traps. Coyote packs are doing a number on city rodent populations. And the occasional visit from wandering toothed wildlife creates a media ruckus.

An infamous young black bear amicably ambled through Chicagoland and the northern part of the state earlier this year, prompting dozens of sightings in May and June documented by bemused reporters throughout the region.

But the appearance underscored an issue with Illinois’ wildlife code, which allowed carnivores to be shot on sight with no questions asked—much like a cougar shot cowering. near a farm 100 miles from Chicago last year

Thankfully, that issue will now be addressed. Governor Quinn is expected to sign new protections for bears, wolves, cougars and other carnivores into law this week. Illinoisans retain the right to protect themselves if a threat presents itself. But the looming threat of guns coming out due to the mere presence of those critters will be eliminated when the law goes into effect in January.

The bill had been widely referred to as the “cougar bill,” but the recent bear romp through Illinois makes it clear that if folks step back, there’s room enough for the creatures round here, so kudos to the Governor and legislature on this one.