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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Paying for Prevention: Evaluating Arizona Rancher Spending to Avoid or Reduce Livestock Conflicts with the Mexican Gray Wolf


The reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf to the southwest U.S. has been controversial because of documented wolf-livestock conflict (and fear of potential conflicts). Wolf-livestock interactions can lead to economic losses for ranchers directly from depredation and indirectly through physiological impacts on livestock such as weight loss. Ranchers report that, in addition to economic losses, they face additional management costs due to the presence of wolves. Relying on a survey of Arizona ranchers, this study explores ranchers’ attitudes toward wolf reintroduction, identifies and estimates the costs of management practices implemented by ranchers to avoid or reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, and examines how spending on preventative management practices, including the value of ranchers’ time, compares with net returns per cow under three different price scenarios: a low-price, mid-price, and high-price year. Building upon literature that finds ranchers are motivated by lifestyle and other non-monetary benefits of ranching, we posit that factors beyond profit maximization influence ranchers’ decision to implement management practices to limit wolf-livestock conflicts. We find that spending on preventive management practices can be large relative to net returns. We also find that negative attitudes toward wolves are not well correlated with experiences with or losses from wolf depredation. These results illuminate the complexity of rancher attitudes and management decisions, with implications for predator coexistence and conservation efforts.

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