Colorado hunters can obtain chronic wasting disease test results quickly, easily and without cost via the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s 24-hour interactive telephone hotline or from the agency’s Web site. Wildlife officials encourage hunters to take full advantage of the automated systems.

Hunters can obtain chronic wasting disease test results quickly and easily by calling the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) interactive telephone hotline at 1-800-434-0274 or by clicking on the CWD link at the DOW Web site: www.wildlife.state.co.us.

The DOW interactive voice response system (IVR) debuted last year and has become a popular means of obtaining CWD test results.

Both the telephone hotline and the Web site offer hunters convenient alternatives for retrieving CWD test results and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hunters can enter up to five head submission numbers to retrieve results during a single call from a touch-tone phone. The system prompts them to enter each number separately to ensure accuracy.

The computer-based phone system taps into a database of CWD test results. Test results are updated daily. Last year, most results were delivered within two weeks after game specimens were submitted. The IVR phone system can handle as many as 48 calls at any given time. “If a hunter can go to that 800 number it’s just extremely efficient,” said Ken Shew, a DOW computer programmer who helped implement the phone system.

Dale Lashnits, DOW chief of public affairs, said the agency implemented the CWD telephone hotline last year because wildlife officials were confident it would be a good customer-service tool. Interest in CWD, a fatal neurological disorder afflicting deer and elk herds in Colorado, remains high. As such, wildlife officials wanted to make the process of obtaining CWD test results as simple and convenient as possible.

“Our technical staff really made this happen. They deserve a lot of credit,” Lashnits said.

The DOW implemented the IVR phone system last year for just over $10,000 for a six-month period. This year, it will cost $15,000 for the entire year.

Last year, the phone system processed more than 22,000 requests, nearly 13,000 in November alone. An exact figure on hunters who accessed the DOW Web site for CWD test results alone is unavailable. However, an estimated 63,000 people accessed the site to obtain information about CWD and to retrieve test results.

Since the hotline was established, the DOW has worked out a few bugs. Hunters who called the IVR hotline last year were allowed to enter only one head submission number before being disconnected from the system. This year they can enter up to five head submission numbers during a single call. A message that once rejected inquiries based on payment status was eliminated.

“Both the IVR and the Web site are nice tools to have,” said R. Michael McKinney, president and founder of commHAUS Inc., the Denver-based company that developed the DOW computer-based phone system.

McKinney, an avid hunter and sportsman, was instrumental in getting the phone system off the ground. Last year, he tried to obtain CWD test results via the agency’s customer call center and was dissatisfied with the long telephone wait. As it turns out, the DOW call center receives thousands of calls monthly from residents seeking information on various wildlife regulations and issues.

With the IVR hotline and the DOW Web site, hunters do not have to compete for the attention of customer service representatives and can obtain results quickly and easily themselves via a touch-tone phone or personal computer.

“As a user, I was very happy last year,” said McKinney, who last season obtained CWD test results on two elk and one deer submitted by his family members and himself.

Based on the number of inquiries processed last year, McKinney said the DOW hotline is one of the most successful IVR systems he has seen. He said its round-the-clock availability and service-driven approach make it unique.

McKinney emphasized the DOW’s commitment to getting information to hunters in the quickest, most practical manner without sacrificing customer service. “This was not a solution to get DOW out of answering questions for hunters,” he said.

Instead, each IVR inquiry represents “a half hour hold time a hunter didn’t have to go through,” he added.