Field crew leader Mike Tyner was killed instantly when an oak limb fell onto the ATV he was driving to base camp during the frightful wind storm of November 30, 2011. He was 35...
Mike spent nine years with Ventana Wildlife Society, and we will always remember him as a special co-worker and friend. Mike was first and foremost a tireless advocate for condors, and birds in general. Typically, Mike might take a sunrise hike to the headlands at Andrew Molera State Park looking for rare birds, monitor condors in the field all afternoon, then tie up all the loose ends when the rest of the crew was tired and heading home. He would know just what was happening at that condor nest even before Joe could ask him to check it out. If one of the condors went missing, he would know when and where to start looking. He always made his work seem easy, whether it was ambling off to the mist nets in flip-flops (hardly able to contain his excitement over the mere thought of a vagrant warbler), gathering up a plucky condor from the flight pen for processing, or leading a field crew meeting with his gentle affirmatives of “right on”, or “that’ll work”. He never projected stress or negativity; those elements seemed foreign to him. His humor was engaging with a playful edge. Soft-spoken, his grace came not from behind a podium or a computer screen; his grace and comfort came from being outdoors, with a pair of binoculars slung over his shoulders, a fishing rod, or a campfire.
Few people seriously consider what they might do if they knew it would be their last day. Aside from stealing a few extra moments with loved ones, Mike probably would have been just where he was, doing the work he loved. We thank Mike for sharing his passion for conservation and advancing the Ventana Wildlife Society mission. Mike never assumed enough credit for his contribution to the condor recovery program and the variety of other conservation projects he helped manage. But his legacy will be condors soaring freely over the central coast, and the lives he touched while he was here.
Congressman Sam Farr made this statement about Mike which lives forever in the Congressional Record.
How Mike's Colleagues Remember Him . . .
"Mike Tyner was a wildlife biologist who dedicated the last six of his nine years working for Ventana Wildlife Society, to save California Condors in Big Sur, CA. He was truly an exceptional individual who served as the field supervisor for Ventana Wildlife Society's condor recovery program. Tragically, during high winds that we received in Big Sur on November 30, a tree toppled causing his death. This loss is catastrophic, heartbreaking, and painful. As our staff mourns the passing of a remarkable friend, our hearts go out to his family. Mike will be greatly missed!" - Kelly Sorenson, VWS Executive Director and VWS Staff.
"I can say that it was truly an honor to work alongside Mike. He was truly an exceptional biologist, a great friend, and staunch protector of all natural things! His death came very unexpectedly and very tragically. My thoughts and prayers go out his family. Mike will be dearly missed by all who knew him and his positive impacts on Big Sur's natural beauty will live on through the condors...I'm almost sure he's up there soaring with them now." - Joe Burnett, VWS Condor Project Coordinator and Close Friend
"Over and over our staff here just kept saying what a terrific person Mike was. What you saw was what you got. A completely honest, unassuming, humble, hardworking individual. Our thoughts are with you guys, and Mike's family and friends. He will be greatly missed." - Jesse Grantham, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Condor Recovery Program Coordinator.
Tyner, M., L. J. Burnett, and M. M. Stake. 2013. California Condor foraging on a live California sea lion pup. Western Birds 44:151-154.