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How Much is that Otter in the River?

May 1, 2023 | Letters

Author: Emily Forsythe, Master of Science Student, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University

Part 2: WTP for Bobcats, Coyotes, Raccoons, Red Foxes, White-Tailed Deer, and River Otters in a Recreational Setting

The survey investigating consumer preferences for outdoor recreation and associated wildlife sightings discussed last week also included a discrete choice experiment. The choice experiment helped us evaluate Indiana residents’ preferences towards white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, river otters, and red foxes while engaging in their favorite recreational activities. Essentially, each respondent was presented with two Indiana recreation sites. The sites varied in species of animal seen, chances of seeing the listed species, and round-trip distance traveled to the site. Respondents were asked what site they would most likely visit to participate in their favorite recreational activities.

We used the selections that people made when selecting amongst the two Indiana recreation sites to calculate how much respondents were willing to pay for a marginal increase in the chance of seeing bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, red foxes, white-tailed deer, and river otters. That estimated willingness to pay (WTP) for all six species was calculated separately for each recreational activity that respondents indicated as being their favorite. The preliminary findings indicate that the WTP value for a red fox ranks the highest across all of the recreational activities, while the WTP value for a coyote ranks the lowest within the list of species for all of the recreational activities.

A lot discussion surrounds Indiana’s large white-tailed deer population.  Thus, it is interesting (and possibly peculiar?) that people might hold greater value for seeing red foxes, river otters, and bobcats compared to deer, while engaging in certain recreational activities. Perhaps these animals have greater novelty? In other words, perhaps people are less likely to see these species at home, whereas deer may be prevalent? It’s certainly possible to value both the creature comforts of home and the novelty of the creatures of afar …