Wildlife biologist from Paso killed in Big Sur

Wildlife biologist Michael Tyner of Paso Robles was killed by a falling branch in Big Sur on Wednesday after caring for one of the California condors he was dedicated to saving, colleagues said.

“He was just a terrific biologist, very much at one with nature and the wilderness,” said Mike Stake, a senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society, where Tyner worked. “His work with the condors for the last six years was really what he wanted to do. He cared so much about those birds.”

Tyner, 35, who was single, was field supervisor for the California Condor Recovery Program at the society.

The Cal Poly graduate had gone into Los Padres National Forest to check on a young condor in the process of being gradually released to the wild when winds kicked up.

The National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory for high altitudes in the region, but strong winds weren’t expected to start until 4 p.m. that day.

Tyner had called colleagues to say the bird was in a safe location. He was headed back along North Coast Ridge Road to a remote base camp shortly before 3 p.m. when an oak branch fell on the all-terrain vehicle he was driving.

Stake said colleagues who were riding behind in two vehicles came upon the scene. They did not see the accident, he said.

The Monterey County coroner’s office reported after an autopsy Friday that Tyner died instantly from blunt force head injuries.

Tyner worked at the wildlife society for nine years and spent the past six years working with condors.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in ecology and systematic biology at Cal Poly. He studied Carmel River songbirds in 2002 and worked with the Bureau of Land Management. He had been a condor nest technician for the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Stake described Tyner as “a rugged biologist. He just loved being up there.”

While there were no plans as of Friday for a memorial service, it was likely Tyner’s family and the society would collaborate on one soon, Stake said.