Posted: Monday, December 29, 2014
The Times staff will be investigating new Illinois laws taking effect Jan. 1, 2015. Today, reporter
Charles Stanley looks at a new law protecting species returning to Illinois.
Mountain lions, gray wolves and American black bears — now returning in limited numbers to Illinois — have been added to the state’s list of protected species. “Wolves, mountain lions and black bears have been absent from Illinois for more than 150 years,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller in a statement. “As the populations of these animals continue to grow, we expect to see occasional individuals dispersing from their current ranges into Illinois,” he said.
But the protection legislation, Public Act 98-1033, also spells out conditions that allow landowners to kill the animals if they are causing an immediate threat of physical harm or death to a person, livestock, domestic animals or harm to structures or other property.
The law allows landowners to kill a black bear or mountain lion if there is an imminent threat to lives and property. The law also allows landowners to apply for a nuisance permit to remove an animal that is not an immediate threat.
The gray wolf already receives legal protection in Illinois from both the U.S. and Illinois Endangered Species Acts. In these instances, endangered species law will be followed. Due to its federal protection, rules for killing a gray wolf south of Interstate 80 are more stringent. South of Interstate 80, gray wolves may not be killed unless they present an imminent threat to people. Any other killing requires state and federal permits.
Large predator animals Question & Answer
Q. Is Illinois encouraging the return of large predators?
A. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is not actively working to restore gray wolves, American black bears or mountain lions to Illinois. However, IDNR recognizes that occasional individual animals are likely to make their way here. A month-long visit to northern Illinois by a black bear last June demonstrated the benefits of cooperation among state and local government entities in monitoring the bear, but allowing it to remain a wild animal. Public Act 98-1033 is a first necessary step that allows the department to develop formal rules and protocols to manage these species.
Q. What will IDNR do to manage wolves, bears and mountain lions?
A. IDNR biologists and the Illinois Conservation Police are working together to develop protocols for addressing interactions between people and wolves, bears and mountain lions. Conservation Police will share this information with local law enforcement agencies, the likely first-responders in the event of a sighting or nuisance call. Currently, Illinois Conservation Police officers are allowing these animals to go on their way unless they pose a threat.
Q. What are the chances of populations of wolves, black bears and mountain lions becoming established in Illinois?
A. Re-colonization by these species is possible, although Illinois has relatively little suitable habitat in large enough blocks to support these animals. According to habitat models, only about 14.7 percent of Illinois’ area is suitable for black bears, 6.6 percent for mountain lions and 14 percent for gray wolves.
Q. What can Illinois residents do to be prepared for encounters with these species?
A. Property owners can avoid encounters with wildlife by securing potential food sources, including pet food, barbecue grills, trash and other sources. Bird feeders can be taken down temporarily in the event of a local sighting.
To learn more about living with wildlife in Illinois visit web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/.