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Large carnivores are threatened worldwide by a variety of human-driven factors, including persecution, which regularly results when they come into conflict with people. Although human activities are almost universally viewed as negatively affecting carnivore conservation, we contend that conservation outcomes for carnivores are improved when social and economic forces reduce the risks associated with these species and facilitate the acquisition of values favorable to their conservation. We make three specific propositions: (1) Societal tolerance for carnivores is affected by the distribution of risks and benefits associated with these species, (2) modernization and its associated social changes reduce the risks associated with large carnivores and their conservation, and (3) modernization induces lasting effects on conservation by changing societal values. We review existing evidence and present cross-sectional data showing that variation among nations in large carnivore conservation outcomes are related to three facets of modernization believed to reduce the risks associated with large carnivores.