Poaching is a global driver of wildlife population decline, including inside protected areas (PAs). Reducing poaching requires an understanding of its cryptic drivers and accurately quantifying poaching scales and intensity. There is little quantification of how poaching is affected by law enforcement intensity (e.g., ranger stations) versus economic factors (e.g., unemployment), while simultaneously accounting for imperfect detection. Using extensive data of poaching events (i.e., seizures) and censuses of nine ungulate species across the PAs and unprotected lands of Iran from 2010 to 2018, we developed a single-visit hierarchical (N-mixture) model to accurately estimate annual poaching of Iranian ungulates and to differentiate between social and ecological effects on annual poaching intensity. We found that poaching detectability increased with numbers of ranger stations. A recent surge in poaching (2013–2018) coincides with rising unemployment rate. We estimated that 19,727 ungulates (95% confidence interval 11,178–36,195) were poached across the country during 2010–2018. Poaching intensity was positively related to unemployment rate, road density, and ungulate abundance. Our simulations demonstrated that the Poisson and Negative binomial N-mixture models had adequate performance when the conditions of Sólymos et al. (2012) were satisfied, in particular, when at least one covariate is unique to both the detection and abundance parts of the model. Overall, we suggest that single-visit models offer unique insights into understanding the link between poaching intensity, economic conditions, and law enforcement in large-scale landscapes while accounting for imperfect detection of poaching events.