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U.S. and French Predator Compensation Policies Study Top Research Story

July 20, 2015
man sitting on hill with mountains in background
Associate Professor Ben Rashford in wolf habitat in the French Alps. (UW Photo)

A story about predator compensation policies in the United States and France was voted the top article in “Reflections,” the research magazine of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The magazine’s top student story described how clustering development in the wildland/urban interface could potentially lower firefighting costs. An anonymous review team at the university selected the top stories.

“Reflections” will be available at the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station based in the college, research and extension centers at Lingle, Laramie, Powell and Sheridan, at UW Extension offices and at college of agriculture-related venues. An online version with accompanying videos is at

There are about 300 wolves in Wyoming and about 250 in France, but the two nations’ predator compensation approaches and policies are different, explained authors Associate Professor Benjamin Rashford, Senior Research Scientist Thomas Foulke, Professor David Taylor and Jordan Steele, former graduate student, all in the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

France, using European Union funds, accounts for animals directly killed by wolves and also indirect effects using set fees per animal in each attacked flock.

The U.S. compensation plan pays a 7:1 compensation ratio to account for unverified losses (each confirmed kill is compensated at seven times the market value). But a growing body of biological research suggests large carnivores also have indirect effects on livestock, the authors wrote. Cattle exposed to large carnivores may increase vigilance behavior, forage less efficiently, be more prone to flight events (stampedes), avoid certain grazing areas or reproduce less.

In 2013, the French compensation program spent slightly more than 2 million euros ($2.5 million) to compensate producers for direct and indirect losses, and 10.4 million euros ($12.9 million) to support protection measures.

State and private compensation programs in the U.S. spent $273,548 in 2013 to compensate ranchers for confirmed direct losses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grant program awarded producers $425,000 to implement protection measures.

Former graduate student Anna Scofield, who worked as a wildland firefighter, noted the location of a house relative to other houses significantly determines how costly it is to protect. Dispersed development, which is the dominant form of development in the Rocky Mountain region, increases expenditures more than clustered development, she suggests.

Other research showcased in the magazine includes how nutrition during pregnancy can affect future generations of offspring; grazing and fire management potential to restore Wyoming toad habitat; risk factors that could lead to elder financial exploitation; how circadian clocks in plant species affect growth and production; how shade response in plants affects growth and production; and the rabies surveillance role of the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory.

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