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AZ: Survey Finds Subsidies Don’t Decrease Ranchers’ Hostility to Mexican Gray Wolves

TUCSON, Ariz.— A new survey of Arizona ranchers finds that government subsidies to compensate for livestock losses caused by Mexican gray wolves do little to change the broad dislike for the predators within the industry. Further, the survey showed that the strongest antipathy is held by those ranchers who have never lost stock to wolves.

“This study shows that most Arizona cattle owners cannot be persuaded, even with payouts, to accept wolves,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But wolves have been in the Southwest for eons, long before the livestock industry, and they deserve to be here today. They need tolerance, not unjustified hostility. Without that tolerance, strong regulations have to be in place to ensure their safety.”

The survey, funded by the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, was published on Aug. 28 in the Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference, a journal for a periodic meeting of predator-killing experts from government and academia.

“[A]ttitudes towards wolves and their reintroduction are more negative among ranchers that have not been affected by them in the past and among ranchers not located within their reintroduction area” (emphases added), according to the study.

The study, titled “Paying for prevention: evaluating Arizona rancher spending to avoid or reduce livestock conflicts with the Mexican gray wolf,” also suggests that compensating ranchers when they lose livestock to wolves often fails to increase their tolerance for the endangered animals.

The survey showed that “less than half (47%) of respondents agreed, and approximately one-fifth (21%) strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I would be more accepting of the presence of Mexican gray wolves if compensation covered its full costs.’ ”

The study also found that among the 11 respondents out of 28 interviewees who had experiences with Mexican wolves, three would not undertake preventative measures to avoid conflicts.

“That statistic alone crystalizes the federal folly in relying solely on voluntary measures and eschewing enforceable mandates to effectively prevent wolf predation on livestock on public lands,” said Robinson. “If even one rancher leaves carcasses of cattle that may have died from disease to rot in the midst of the grazing herd, that sets the stage for conflict with wolves, and not just with that stockowner but others as well.”

The Center sent the study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for the agency’s consideration as it revises its 2015 wolf-management rule. In 2018 the U.S. district court in Tucson found that rule unlawful, and last year gave the agency until May 17, 2021 to rewrite it.

Thus far in 2020, the federal government has shot five wolves on behalf of the livestock industry and killed four others inadvertently as a consequence of capture.


The federal government had eliminated all the wolves from the U.S. Southwest by the 1930s, and thereafter trapped and poisoned wolves that crossed the border from Mexico. Beginning in 1950 the Fish and Wildlife Service exported government-manufactured poison to kill wolves in Mexico. Passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 led to breeding of seven wolves caught in Mexico and Arizona; no other Mexican wolves survived in either nation in the wild. Reintroduction of some of the descendants of those last wolves began in 1998 in Arizona and New Mexico and in 2011 in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Mexican wolves numbered 76 in Arizona and 87 in New Mexico at last count earlier this year, and an estimated 30 to 35 in Chihuahua as of this summer. More than 200 wolves are in captivity, and many could benefit the genetic status of the wild wolves. Yet they remain in captivity due to livestock-industry opposition and the management rule that is undergoing revision.