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


Date of this Version



Hoag, D.L., J. Burkhardt, B. Ghasemi, S. Breck, R. Niemiec, and K. Crooks. 2023. Willingness to pay for reintroducing wolves in a divided voting base. Global Ecology Conservation 46:e02576. doi: 10.1016/j.gecco.2023.e02576


U.S. government work


Wolves will soon be reintroduced in Colorado based on a statewide ballot initiative that narrowly passed in November 2020. Using an economic choice experiment, we estimate the benefits that wolf introduction might bring to Colorado. We calculated willingness to pay (WTP) for a sustainable wolf population by considering six program attributes: 1) state wolf population, 2) compensation for livestock-related losses, 3) cost-sharing for conflict reduction, 4) number of livestock killed statewide, 5) lethal government control of wolves, and 6) wolf hunting. Respondents who reported they voted yes on the ballot initiative had a positive WTP for a population of 200 wolves, referred to as the minimum sustainable population in the survey, but WTP diminished for larger populations. Preferences for a population of 200 wolves amounts to an annual WTP of approximately $31.1 million when extrapolating to all yes-voting households statewide. In contrast, respondents who reported they voted no would have to be paid to accept wolf populations. We also found statistically significant preferences for other attributes of the management program, such as cost sharing for conflict reduction measures to livestock producers or compensating livestock losses. When these attributes were included, the willingness to pay increased to $115 million statewide among yes-voting households. We estimated a $57.5 to $1 benefit-cost ratio for a sustainable wolf population. However, benefits and costs are not evenly distributed across urban and rural residents, which suggests that mechanisms to transfer resources from those willing to pay to those that incur costs would be needed to balance that distribution.