SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A bill that would make it legal to hunt bobcats in Illinois is advancing in the state Legislature.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports the legislation was approved by a House committee on Feb. 25.

Bobcat hunting in Illinois became illegal in 1972, when conservationists were worried about a decline in the big cats’ population.

State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, is one of the measure’s sponsors. He said there are at least 3,000 bobcats living in southern Illinois, although the animals are scattered across the state.

The bill would allow hunters with a permit to kill one bobcat a year during a season that runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 15. It now heads to the full House.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.