Saving Wild Tigers May Require Interesting Scientific Measure

Illinois Seeks to Lift Crucial Bobcat Hunting Ban

Big cats are returning to Illinois, after decades of decline due to hunting and habitat loss. Illinois is currently home to a few cougars, and a growing bobcat population, which the state general assembly considers to be good enough news that they’re working on lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Illinois banned bobcat hunting back in the 1970s, when they ended up on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and overhunting. Downstate, people are supposedly upset about bobcats threatening livestock and pets, as the cats apparently grow out of control. In the northern part of the state, people are worried that lifting the bobcat hunting ban will return them to the threatened species list, or worse, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois lawmakers used scare tactics to convince others to vote for lifting the bobcat hunting ban

The bill to lift the bobcat hunting ban went to Governor Rauner’s desk three days ago, with groups petitioning him to veto it, just as Governor Quinn did five months ago. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune talked about just how the general assembly pushed the bill through, with various lawmakers using scare tactics to make their arguments. Representative Ed Sullivan (D-Mundelein) said:

“Imagine a bobcat that’s 60 pounds that could attack and kill something 10 times its weight. Think of a small child or a small woman or a small boy that could be attacked and carried away. That’s why we kill these things. That’s why we hunt them.”

This is utter nonsense, as bobcats are not nearly that big. The average northern bobcat, which is what we have here in Illinois, is 20 to 30 pounds, max. They’re not that much bigger than the domestic house cat. They’re able to hunt animals as big as deer, but their preferred prey is rabbits, rodents and birds.

Rep. Sullivan was not only fear-mongering, he either got his facts wrong, or he was outright lying to scare people into voting to lift the bobcat hunting ban. The op-ed in the Tribune rightly mentions that bobcats are shy of humans, which is quite true. When they have the option, they will avoid us, rather than confront us, let alone hunt us. They do not stalk humans; not even children.

Clayton Nielsen, a wildlife biologist from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, says that bobcats are no threat to people.

“Bobcats are active mainly at dawn and dusk, and have no desire for a fight. The bobcat’s story is the same as for most wildlife: if they can flee, they will.”

The real reasons hunters want the bobcat hunting ban lifted

The biggest reasons that people want to hunt bobcats are because they make good trophies, and because their pelts are valuable. The state’s bobcat population is 3,000 to 5,000 now, which is what lawmakers have decided is a good number to warrant lifting our bobcat hunting ban.

Let Governor Rauner know he should veto this bill

Many groups have filed petitions to pressure Governor Rauner to veto the bill. The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club has asked people to write to Rauner and tell him to veto the bill. The Humane Society of Illinois has a form you can fill out and send directly to the Governor’s office, asking him to veto it. He has not yet signed it, so there’s still time to tell him to veto the bill. Click here to sign the Humane Society’s letter and let Bruce Rauner know that you stand with Illinois bobcats, and against people who want to hunt these creatures back onto the endangered list.

**Please note: You may have to be a resident of Illinois to send this letter, so if you can’t sign it and send it yourself, please pass it on to people who can.**

Do Big Cats Like Lasers?

You’ve probably played with your cats using a laser pointer. If they enjoy it, they’ll run after it, they’ll go in circles, they’ll jump up the wall, and they act like they’ll do anything to catch it. In a lot of ways, big cats are like our own cats. Have you ever wondered if big cats like lasers, too?

Big Cat Rescue, in Tampa, decided they wanted to find out. Watch below to see the results:

You saw that the cats closer to the size of our own furry feline friends at home were interested in the laser. Santino, a serval, really seemed to enjoy it. He tried, and tried, and tried to catch it, just like your cats might. Bailey the bobcat tried to catch it, too, as did Rambo the jungle cat (sadly, Rambo has since passed on).

One of the cougars, and one of the tigers, were both scared of it. They watched it, and then jumped away from it, possibly because they didn’t know what it was.

Most, however, just didn’t want to play. The video shows some of the leopards, other tigers, and lions, that just don’t seem to care. There’s even a caption on one of them that says, “Dude, seriously?” That’s actually how lots of these cats reacted.

Why do some big cats like lasers, but others don’t?

So why the difference? Why do some big cats like lasers, and others don’t? It’s hard to say. One possibility is that the little red dot just doesn’t provide enough stimulation for the bigger cats, which have bigger prey in the wild. However, that doesn’t explain why Canyon, a tiny sand cat, wasn’t interested (although it could have been that Canyon was shy-ish. He, too, is no longer with us).

There’s an old post on Reddit, from 2011, about this topic. The question was, “Would a lion chase a laser pointer?” A keeper at a zoo answered that they had actually tried that with their cats. Their lions didn’t respond to the laser, but their tigers did. The keeper said that their tigers reacted to the laser exactly the same as our own little kitties at home would.

So size, both of the cat and of its natural prey, doesn’t really explain why some big cats like lasers and others don’t. It’s possible it has something to do with stimulation, and it may just have to do with each cat’s individual preferences when it comes to their hunting instincts. Regardless, watching them at Big Cat Rescue is rather funny.