The DNR Information Center in St. Paul takes about 75,000 calls every year. Until recently, calls were only answered during state business hours, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. But now callers can talk to an information consultant 21.5 more hours a week, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We made the switch last fall and since then we’ve received more than 7,500 calls on evenings and weekends,” said DNR Information Center supervisor Ann McBurney. “We also now offer callers live interpretation in more than 220 languages.”
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has been the number one fan of the improved call center services. “We know it is tough to call us when you are at work,” he said. “These hours will make it easier for customers to get information, and to make it available in their native language.”
Although the extended hours haven’t been widely promoted yet, callers tell consultants they are surprised and pleased to hear a friendly voice on the phone at 7 p.m. on Friday or on Saturday morning.
“It’s been great to be able to answer peoples’ questions even when most DNR staff are off work,” McBurney said. “We say we are the first best stop for your general information needs because we are on duty 64 hours a week.”
What kind of calls roll in? Most inquiries involve hunting, fishing and regulation-related questions, but that doesn’t mean consultants don’t receive their fair share of off-the-wall requests too.
“For example, we had a caller ask if we lend out animals for photo shoots,” McBurney said. “The answer is no.”
Questions about wild animals, living or not, that are in someone’s yard, on the road, or elsewhere, are frequent. Squirrels, raccoons, muskrats, beavers, birds, deer and bears receive the most calls.
“We have a Living with Wildlife page on our website, mndnr.gov. That’s the best way to locate guidelines about nuisance animals,” McBurney said. “Mostly we tell people not to feed or touch wild animals for their own safety.”
To reach the Information Center, dial 888-MINNDNR, 888-646-6367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. State Fair visitors can stop by the DNR information booth to pick up a contact card or to have their questions answered by on-site staff.