Paso Robles biologist dies in accident

December 5, 2011

Michael Tyner

A large oak branch fell on a 35-year-old Paso Robles biologist last week, killing him as he drove his work vehicle in Big Sur. [TheCalifornian]

Michael Tyner was caring for condors at the time of his death, part of his work as field supervisor of the Ventana Wildlife Society’s condor program.

According to witnesses who came upon the 3:30 p.m. accident moments after it occurred on Wednesday, Tyner had just reported on the condition of a bird on which he had been checking.

Tyner was hit in the head by the branch and died of blunt force trauma, according to the Monterey County coroner.

The Cal Poly graduate had been working for the Society for nine years.

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Der … “doing” I would think that he did not suffer much.

Very sad story. Glad he died doing what it seems he loved doign!

I didn’t post a link as I was under the belief that this is common knowledge. If you really wanted a link then you would have done the Google and found one because it is all over the place. Google ‘lead condors’ or anything with those words. But I did the work and found this great link.

I know that most of you don’t really look at these links but the first search that I found was this fabulous video that will explain this issue and it’s really good video even if you are aware of the issue. To you Maxie and the other righties, pass by the Native speaking in the beginning and at the very end as we know how you guys feel about that sort of stuff (the environment and natural heritage). Personally I really like the guy, he makes good sense and has his head and his heart in the right place.

(skip this part if you watch the video)

Max, if you won’t look at the link I’ll briefly tell you that hunters will shoot at animals and then leave the carcass or clean it there and leave the remains. As you know if you shoot, those little lead balls (the shot) spread into the animal. The Condor is a scavenger and he eats the carcass. It is a fact that this is the cause of the die off was from humans. First hunters killing them but in our lifetime it’s been lead. I am not against hunting, not at all I just feel that we need to change the way it’s done by using alternative ammunition.


A number of comments derailing into alternative energy rightie vs leftie greenie type have been deleted, sorry. questions Email

You’re right, I know that I got carried away. This is about a man that was doing a noble job and was killed by a freak act of nature. It’s a very sad thing and politics shouldn’t come into it. Sorry.

I think the point about the lead is well taken.

However, in the midwest, where my mothers’ people are located, they have a long history of hunting to survive. Not so much now, but up until the 1950s, oh yeah.

It was a common custom to take what you need and leave the rest behind for the small predators. It helps sustain the small predators. After all, the hunger is taking away a part of the chain of life there, so it helps to leave what you don’t need behind.

I don’t think they really knew about lead issues in bullets and shot, however.

I would not be surprised if some hunters have gone back to that concept, of leaving what you don’t need behind for the other predators.

I’ve always liked the concept, myself.

Another thing they used to do, before there were cemetaries and such, when a person died, they would bury them a far piece from the house, and plant a fruit or nut tree over the grave. I really love that concept. I would much rather my body be taken up by a tree and distributed to the birds and whatever than to just sit in a coffin underground, benefiting nothing.

Sorry to hear about this accident and my condolences to his loved ones. Was he riding an ATV at a high rate of speed? Did he have a helmet on? Blunt force trauma and no helmet go together. I see workers (usually agricultural) everyday on ATV’s who are not wearing helmets, makes me wonder each and everytime I hop on my dirt bike.

A massive 100 year old tree was what caused the blunt force trauma. Purely random freak accident. According to the 2 colleagues who were behind Mike, they were not speeding (if you have been up there you would understand). These were seasoned professionals who checked the weather reports before heading out and donned appropriate safety gear. The winds were due to pick up at 4 pm and by 1 pm the wind was kicking up so the crew headed down the mountain. Shortly thereafter the 100 year old tree uprooted and came down in the storm. Mike was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m not a professional and do not possess expert knowledge of helmets, but I’m not sure there would be much to protect your head or, for that matter, the rest of your body from the power of a massive 100 year old tree crashing on you. It’s a tragic accident. He was a good man and not reckless. Not Mike. No way.

Thank you for the info.. Very sad.

The following is a post I saw in the Trib by Dudeler that I think is worth sharing here:

“What Michael Tyner knew was just how important Condor’s are. These vultures eat the flesh of dead animals: a mass of nasty bacteria and organisms that is lethal to humans. Anthrax, cholera and other toxins are consumed and taken out of the food chain and water. How they are able to do this is still not completely understood, which is one of the reasons these vanishing birds are so important.”

Odds of “a large oak branch” falling on you, remote. There’s more to the story.

I don’t think there is more to the story. Yup, he probably had better odds of winning the lottery but people do win. This is a sad story and it leads one to step back and ponder the uncanny nature behind this tragic event.

My condolences to all who loved and will miss him.

I agree, it was simply a very sad freak accident.

That’s precisely what it was. Very sad. Not sure there is any way to make sense out of a senseless, random act of nature.

Odds of “a large oak branch” falling on you, remote. There’s more to the story.

The linked article mentions fierce winds, in case you missed it the bracketed blue underlined text is a link to a larger longer article.

Ventana commuter safety issues ???

Appreciate the link, and how it relates to this discussion would be?

We see what’ lengths’ people will go to help a bird get along.

Got it.

Max, he was driving an ATV when the branch fell on it. High winds were reported to be anticipated latter that day. In an effort to check on the safety of the young condor he was overseeing, he went early before the high winds were anticipated.

No kidding, Max. What are the chances of being killed by a falling branch, AND being an environmental biologist who monitors condors, a protected species, based out of the Sespe-Frasier Condor Sanctuary, where the U.S. Dept. of Forestry permitted slant-drilling for oil?

A couple of years ago, a KSBY television crew drove out there to check on the status of the oil drilling and found leaking oil and contaminated dirt around the extraction site. This raises the issue whether slant-drilling is still continuing at that location, and when the permit is up for renewal.

Blunt force trauma to the head? Time to identify and interview the people who found him. Just to be sure.

Yeah, I’m betting on the ugly-looking condor with the limp as the perp.


Oak branches fall all the time, and they often fall on people. A neighbor when we lived in Rattlesnake Canyon in SB was working with a chainsaw, cutting a dead oak into firewood, when a branch from another tree fell, knocked him over, he lost control of the chainsaw, and almost cut his own leg off.

I would say at least three times each year we would leave the house in the morning to go to work, only to have to turn around before we reached the bottom of the driveway, drive back up to the house, change into work clothes, and deal with an oak limb that had taken a header onto the driveway.

Either one of us could have been walking down the driveway when that happened, as we had to walk to get the LATimes at the end of the driveway (it was a LONG driveway, over a bridge, etc.), near the road, every morning. The branches sometimes fell between when we walked to get the paper and then left for work a few hours later.


Had a Chinese Elm split in half and take out my garage once. My best friend had a pine tree fall and cut her cabin in Big Bear in half. Happens all the time!

A “large oak branch” fell on my car several years ago causing definite blunt force trauma to the roof!