Wildlife Prairie Park Animal Team
The animal care team at Wildlife Prairie Park is an important aspect of our park. Learn more about each of the individuals who work hard each day to ensure that all animals at Wildlife Prairie Park are safe, fed, happy, and healthy in their habitats.
Dr. Dave Knaak
Wildlife Committee Chair
David is a retired veterinarian at Limestone Companion Animal Hospital. He serves on the board at Wildlife Prairie Park to improve the welfare of all Wildlife Prairie Park animals! David’s favorite memory at the park is the roundup of the bison and elk herds. His favorite animal is the Alligator snapping turtle. David serves on the board at the Tri-County Animal Emergency Clinic and Mason County Pheasants Forever. David is married to Mary.
Director of Wildlife and Conservation
As Director of Wildlife and Conservation, Andy manages animal husbandry and animal welfare, personnel and change management, financial analysis and planning related to wildlife, agriculture, education, and forestland revenue and expenses.
Since a child, Andy has had a strong love for animals and the outdoors, spending much of his non-office time exploring and developing woods and prairie, caring for the wildlife on these lands, and husbandry to the farm animals.
His favorite animal at Wildlife Prairie Park is the wolf. He can remember loving wolves since he was a young boy. Andy’s other passions include traveling, hiking, horseback riding, camping, hunting, and exercise.
Dr. Nicole Johnson
Dr. Nikki is a 2003 graduate of the University of Illinois. She is a Pekin native and returned to the central Illinois area to join Pekin Animal Hospital in August of 2008.
She is a very active member and past president of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. She is also a member of the Association for Avian Veterinarians and the Association for Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. She is currently the President Elect for the Mississippi Valley Veterinary Medical Association. She is also the Region IV board member for the ISVMA.
In addition to treating dogs and cats, Dr. Nikki has a strong background in exotic and zoo animal medicine and surgery. She shares her life with her significant other, Aaron, her teenage son, their Akitas Holly, and Spartan, their cats Autumn, Bruno, Sophie and Sid and a house full of reptiles including their continuously growing African Spurred Tortoise, Blue, who enjoys spending her winters, and entertaining the staff at PAH.
Dr. Kourtney Grimm
Dr. Kourtney Grimm was born and raised in central Illinois and returned home after graduating with a DVM from University of Illinois in 2012. Like many veterinarians, she has always loved animals, but developed an interest in exotic and wildlife medicine after studying sea turtles in Costa Rica for a year before starting veterinary school. Despite being land locked in Illinois, sea turtles remain her favorite animal. She spent 4 years working with her vet school’s wildlife clinic and was able to do several wildlife internships. She even participated in Wildlife Prairie Park’s Round Up twice as a student. She actively pursues additional continuing education in exotic animal medicine to provide high quality care to many different species of animals. She has a specific interest in community outreach and enjoys doing talks to adults and children about exotic and wildlife animal care and medicine. She is proud to provide care to the animals of Wildlife Prairie Park as they hold a special place in the hearts of many in Central Illinois and beyond.
Anna Lynn went to Southern Illinois University and has a Bachelors Degree in Zoology. She started as a Naturalist Intern in the Education Department at WPP, then became an Animal Keeper shortly after. Anna is now Animal Curator and has been at the park for about 8 years. She loves photography and often takes pictures of the Park’s animal residents.
Bryant is a zoologist and herpetologist that recently started working as an animal keeper/naturalist for Wildlife Prairie Park in spring 2021. He attended Georgia Southern University where he completed a B.S. in Biology in 2017. During this time, he worked at the Center for Wildlife Education on campus—as well as contributing in several research labs.
He then went on to attend graduate school at John Carroll University, where he earned his M.A. in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology studying Eastern redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) in 2019. During graduate school he also volunteered at Herps Alive, a reptile and amphibian non-profit rescue in Cleveland, Ohio. Following completion of his masters Bryant has been employed as an intern at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo and as a reptile keeper/breeder at Josh’s Frogs where he primarily worked with a variety of tropical gecko species.
Aside from Bryant’s professional keeping experience, he is an avid lover of many animals and has quite a collection of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates at home who provide entertainment for his cat, Mortimer. He is excited for this next chapter at Wildlife Prairie Park!
Lead animal keeper
Brielle Haile was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. She started as an animal keeper at Wildlife Prairie Park in July of 2021. Her favorite part of the job has been being able to share her love for animals with the community. Brielle graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2016, where she got her B.S. in Marine Biology. While in school, she also attended classes at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory through University of Southern Mississippi. She loves anything and everything that relates to the ocean. After graduation, she worked as animal keeping intern at Summerfield Farm and Zoo for 6 months where she got experience with a wide array of native and exotic species. Brielle’s all-time favorite animal is any type of turtle, but at home she loves taking care of her leopard gecko named Yogurt!
MacKenzie “Kenzie” Sturm began her journey at Wildlife Prairie Park in March of 2021. Ever since she can remember, animals have been her passion and Steve Irwin has been her idol. Kenzie has wanted to be an Animal Keeper since the “what do you want to be when you grow up” days. Kenzie received her Associates degree in Biology at Illinois Central College, then her Bachelors degree in Zoology at Western Illinois University. During school, she volunteered many hours at Peoria Zoo and Keepers of the Wild in Valentine, Arizona. Her goal is to one day work with big cats, such as Tigers and Snow Leopards. After graduation she started her animal adventure at Mt. Hawley Animal Clinic as a Kennel Attendant, then she moved up to a Veterinary Technician at Prospect Animal Clinic where she spent 3.5 years taking care of Cats and Dogs. Now, she is very excited to learn from some of the most knowledgeable people in the area, and is happy to be a part of the wonderful Wildlife Prairie Park team!
Devin Poole has always known he wanted to work with animals. His journey at Wildlife hasn’t started like most others. He first came to Wildlife as a volunteer, and after experienced keepers noticed is exceptional talent, he was offered a part time position, which he happily accepted. From working part time he has been able to gain a lot of experience working with animals while he pursues his college degree. Devin enjoys being able to show children the beauty of nature and hopefully inspire future keepers as park employees once did for him when he was a visitor at the park.
Growing up in Saint Louis, Missouri, Michael Druzynski would frequently go to the zoo and picture himself becoming a zookeeper one day. Working with animals every day and inspiring others to care about those animals would be a dream come true.
In 2017 he received an internship with the Saint Louis Zoo’s Bird Department, and it only made him more passionate to work with animals as a career. After receiving a bachelors degree in Wildlife Biology from Missouri State University in 2018, Michael received a job as a part time zookeeper at Peoria Zoo.
In 2021 Michael’s wife, Eileen, started working at Wildlife Prairie Park. Seeing how well he interacted with the animals at the zoo, as well as their family cat, Noelle, Eileen thought he would be well suited to working with the many animals living at the park. After some consideration he decided to join Wildlife Prairie Park’s animal keeping team part time, and he has been loving it ever since. Now working part time at the Peoria Zoo and part time at Wildlife Prairie Park, Michael is living his dream surrounded by wonderful coworkers and animals alike.