U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Biological Conservation (2011) 144:930-936.


Conserving large carnivores throughout the world will often require that they share the landscape with livestock. Minimizing depredations and increasing tolerance by livestock producers will be critical for conservation efforts. To investigate factors influencing calf mortality and producer detection rates (i.e., number of livestock killed by predators, found by producers, and correctly classified as to cause of death), we monitored radio-tagged domestic calves at two sites in the Mexican wolf recovery area (East Eagle [EE] and Adobe Ranch [AR]). Study areas differed in grazing practices, density of predators (mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and Mexican wolves), and amount of effort spent monitoring cattle. We radiotagged 618 calves over 3.5 years, and 312 calves over 2 years on the EE and AR, respectively. The overall proportion of radioed calves that died was higher on the EE (6.5%) than on the AR (1.9%). Predators (especially mountain lions) accounted for 85% of mortality on the EE and 0% on the AR. Calves selected by predators were on average 25 days younger than the surviving cohort. Our results indicate that year-round calving, especially in areas with high predator densities, are subject to higher losses primarily because calves are exposed to mortality agents for longer periods of time rather than having higher natural rates of mortality. We found a significant difference in producer detection rates between study sites, likely due to differences in the intensity of monitoring cattle between sites. On the EE, the producer detected 77.5% of mortalities and on the AR, the producer detected 33% of mortalities. Our results support changing husbandry practices to limit calving to a seasonal endeavor and that performance payment may be a better compensation strategy than ex post compensation schemes.