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Monday, Feb 11 2013 06:24 PM

Fowl play at Condors game goes national

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    By Courtesy Joe Krathwohl

    Queen Victoria, or Vicky for short, an 18-year-old Andean condor owned by Las Vegas animal handler Joe Krathwohl, takes the perch without incident at a rehearsal in preparation for a somewhat more problematic exhibition at a Bakersfield Condors game held at Rabobank Arena.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Joe Krathwohl, known as the Birdman of Las Vegas, was nursing a couple of cracked ribs and a severely bruised ego Monday.

But he was still happy as a buzzard at a road-kill luncheon.

Three days after temporarily losing control of Queen Victoria, his 18-year-old Andean condor, in front of thousands of fans at a Bakersfield Condors game Friday -- and then slipping on the ice and performing an unintended pratfall -- Krathwohl was both chagrined by the incident and pleased by the outcome.

"I've been going through the half-million or so responses," he joked Monday from his animal sanctuary in Vegas.

Sure, he was exaggerating about the numbers, but not by much.

The video of the incident, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of Internet hits, begins just as singer Cassie Dunlap is shown powering through the final strains of the National Anthem. All seems to be going as planned as Krathwohl prepares to place Victoria (He calls her Vicky for short) on a perch made from a hockey stick.

But Vicky was having none of it.

The vulture-like bird began flapping her near-10-foot wingspan, forcing Krathwohl to release his grip. The big bird began slipping and sliding across the ice surface with her 47-year-old handler in hot pursuit as 4,329 Condors hockey fans looked on in disbelief, and one would assume, unmitigated delight.

"I trotted out onto the ice and scooped her up like a kid," Krathwohl said.

But the surface was slippery as, er, ice, and just before Krathwohl made it back to his safe little patch of carpet, his feet slid out from under him, and in what seemed like a banana-peel gag from an old cartoon, Krathwohl went down hard.

Condors Vice President of Communications Kevin Bartl and Ryan Holt, "the voice of the Condors,"were heard on the video trying and failing to keep from laughing.

"Ryan and I -- we lost it," Bartl admitted Monday. "We were just vocalizing everybody's reaction."

And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

By Monday, the video had been shown on the Today show, Good Morning America, a slew of ESPN shows and on dozens of local news outlets across the country.

Dunlap was lauded by both Bartl and Krathwohl for keeping her composure and finishing the National Anthem.

"The bird and I definitely made eye contact," she later told Bartl.

Vicky, who originally came from a government condor study program, cannot be reintroduced to the wild, Krathwohl said. But he has high hopes that a breeding program at his facility will ultimately yield condor chicks that can add to the dwindling numbers of the South American species.

"Vicky was not hurt. She was not stressed," he said. "The only one that got hurt was the idiot who brought the condor."

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