Biodiversity conservation outside protected areas requires cooperation from affected communities, hence the extensive discussions of trade-offs in conservation, and of a so-called new conservation that addresses human relations with nature more fully. Human–wildlife conflict is one aspect of those relations, and as land use intensifies around protected areas the need to understand and manage its effects will only increase. Research on human–wildlife conflict often focuses on individual species but given that protecting wildlife requires protecting habitat, assessments of human–wildlife conflict should include subsidiary impacts that are associated with ecosystem conditions. Using a case study from Laikipia, Kenya, where conservation outside protected areas is critical, we analysed human–wildlife conflict from a household perspective, exploring the full range of impacts experienced by community members on Makurian Group Ranch. We addressed questions about four themes: (1) the relationship between experienced and reported human–wildlife conflict; (2) the results of a high-resolution assessment of experienced human–wildlife conflict; (3) the relative impact of high-frequency, low-severity conflict vs high-severity, low-frequency conflict; and (4) the effect of experienced conflict on receptivity to the conservation narrative. Our results show that high-frequency, low-severity conflict, which is often absent from reports and discussion in the literature, is a significant factor in shaping a community's perception of the cost–benefit ratio of conservation. Local, ongoing, high-resolution monitoring of human–wildlife conflict may facilitate more realistic and effective incorporation of the experienced impacts of human–wildlife conflict in conservation planning and management. Such monitoring could help to define locally appropriate trade-offs in conservation and thereby improve conservation outcomes.