Administrative assistants are often agency “first responders” because they field inquiries from the public. We conducted a conference call and online survey of administrative assistants at state agencies to: 1) gain a better understanding of the typical kinds of wildlife health-related inquiries received by agency staff; 2) determine how NWDC might help staff maximize the quality of information received from such inquiries; and, 3) help streamline the process of reporting inquiries to relevant agency biologists.
Agency staff who responded to the surveys indicated that the most frequent types of inquiries and reports they receive from the public pertain to animals out during the wrong time of day, animals with mange, people afraid of wildlife, and hunter-related (food safety). The volume of inquiries is strongly seasonal, with spring and summer being the busiest times. During these seasons, calls and emails from the public occur on a daily basis, and affected animals are most often observed in residential areas. Some of the biggest challenges faced by agency staff who respond to public inquiries are the absence of a system for managing or documenting the information they receive, not knowing what is being reported elsewhere in the state, and educating the public about normal behavior of wild animals. Staff suggested disease fact sheets and a template of standard questions to ask callers would help them handle calls. A central agency database for organizing reports from the public would also aid in managing the information they receive. NWDC staff will work with state agencies to develop tools (e.g. template of questions, database) for addressing inquiries more effectively.