(CBS) — Black bears have caught a break in Springfield, along with gray wolves and mountain lions.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has voted 6 to 0 (2 abstaining) to add gray wolves, black bears and mountain lions to the list of animals protected in Illinois.
State Senator Linda Holmes, who used to volunteer at Brookfield Zoo, introduced the Legislation. She’s a Democrat from the west suburban 42nd district which includes Aurora and Naperville.
Senator Holmes says she believes her bill will pass the Senate, though she says she does not know how it will do in the Illinois House. Holmes says her legislation would block shooting of these animals except in case of imminent threat to people or farm animals.
She says a farmer who sees a cougar near his wildlife can secure a threat permit from the Department of Natural Resources and protect his herd of flock. Anyone who sees one of these animals stalking a child can of course take immediate action.
“We have noticed that we have had a few of these animals coming back into the area and we want to make sure that they are not just killed or shot by anybody seeing them if nobody is being threatened,” said State Senator Linda Holmes.
Senator Holmes says gray wolves have ventured south into Illinois and are likely to expand their range here permanently as they have in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Holmes says she knows of four cougars having been killed in Illinois and that under current Illinois Law, gray wolves, black bears and mountain lions are completely unprotected meaning anyone can shoot them any time.
Asked why introduce the legislation: Senator Holmes said protecting these animals it brings us back to where we were, its part of who we were and what this country was originally.