Student Spotlight

Brandi Baker, Zoology Major, Junior

Kayla Trail

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Western Illinois University student Brandi Baker not only studies life of animals, but also houses 12 animals, including reptiles and her Alaskan malamute dog, Coda, all of which are rescues.

 “I have two monitors — a monitor is a lizard, they’re cousins to the Komodo Dragon, just much smaller,” Baker said, “I have a snapping turtle; his name is Wortortle. I have two tortoises, a green iguana, a corn snake, two pythons and two boas and then Coda.”

 Ever since Baker was younger, she recalls spending her time outside looking for “creepy crawlies.”

 “I have memories of going outside and looking under rocks to see what I could find,”
Baker said. “I was never really into the big furry animals. I always liked the things
that kind of scurried. My nickname was Wednesday Addams growing up because I liked to play with the spiders.”

 Baker, a full-time employee in the animal health department at Farm King in Macomb, enjoys spending her free time walking Coda and with her friends hanging out at one of their houses, who refer to the home as “The Alamo.”

 Senior law enforcement and justice administration major, Kyle Davis is one of the three homeowners of “The Alamo.”

 “We call it the Alamo because every place I’ve lived since I moved to Macomb has had a theme,” Davis said. “This year is one of my roommate and I’s last year at Western, so in commemoration of our time here, our house is Western themed. With it being our last stand at Western, the Alamo seemed fitting.”

 Baker spent a lot of time this past summer playing the mobile game Pokemon Go with her friends, and now that school is back in session, she spends time with her friends playing the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons or reading
tarot cards for her friends.

 “I’ve been a witch or Wiccan since I was 18 years old,” Baker said. “I converted from being a Lutheran as I didn’t find the love or the nurturing that I need at 18. It was very cold to me, so I turned to Wiccan. Being a very earthy and spiritual person with no serious dogma, other than karma and do onto others as you would want done to you. I found Wiccan, and from there you just learned to accept all living creatures and it’s really followed suit with me loving animals, as I am caring for animals. I started tarot reading and looking into tarot cards and Divination actually before I started Wicca. My mom bought me my first tarot deck because there were fairies on it, and I love fairies, so I’ve been doing that since I was about 17 years old and I enjoy doing it.”

 Baker said that reading tarot cards for others helps them open up to her and helps
them feel more comfortable.

 “It allows people to open up more (since) the cards don’t lie and it’s kind of an unbiased setting,” Baker said. “It allows people to open up to me so I can talk to them and help them through that.”

 Baker also does spells, but they focus more on concentrating energy in and out
of areas and relationships.

 “Whether (the spells are for) purifying a space, a home or bringing harmony into a life
that has gone through turmoil,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of grounding, protection, centering the mind, body and soul into one thing.”

 As for achievements, Baker is a certified raptor handler and can handle birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, owls and eagles. Baker has also rescued exotic animals from bad situations while she worked at a wildlife sanctuary.

 “I took care of a 6-foot alligator that was found in someone’s basement,” Baker said, “two Canadian lynx’s that were taken from underground fur companies because technically they’re illegal, a bobcat that was privately owned illegally and two arctic foxes that were found at puppy mills. They were found under shopping carts, they were
so sweet and like puppy dogs.”

 After graduating in 2018, Baker hopes to pursue a career with animals in either the Midwest or somewhere more exotic.

 “Field research,” Baker said. “Ideal job would be working with endangered reptiles. There’s a lot of them mainly due to habitat destruction, so I would love to work in breeding programs for reptiles. (For after college) I’m actually going to seek work hopefully at St. Louis Zoo and their reptile house.”