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Abstract

Abstract We develop an empirical framework for evaluating the profitability of the use of barn owls to control rodent populations by locating nesting boxes in agricultural areas. Barn owls’ behavior is incorporated into the analysis by estimated functions that relate agricultural production to the birds’ spatial patterns of hunting and nesting choices. The model was developed based on agricultural and zoological data collected in a kibbutz in northern Israel. Focusing on alfalfa, the presence of barn owls was found to increase profits by about $50 / hectare-year. Moreover, production exhibited increasing return to scale with barn owls’ predation pressures. Accordingly, simulations show that redistributing boxes can considerably increase barn owls’ contribution to alfalfa production’s profit. These findings indicate that environmental policies aimed at encouraging the adoption of this biological control method are redundant; at the same time, they provide support for stricter regulations on rodent control using poisons.

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