Mike Lockhart​

Field Biologist with ten years experience capturing polar bears on the Southern Beaufort Sea.

Mike Lockhart has provided field assistance on polar bear research projects for the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2001.  He has extensive experience with wildlife survey, capture, and telemetry techniques which have been put to use in polar bear field studies.   Mike has an M.S. in Biology and has worked in wildlife conservation since 1975.  He retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 after 33 years with that agency, but continues to work actively as a consultant and field biologist.  During his tenure with FWS, Mike conducted and/or participated in a host of research projects on birds of prey, carnivores and ungulates; investigated energy development, contaminant, and oil spill effects on wildlife and developed management responses; helped establish a new National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado;  assisted with regulation development and management of the Federal subsistence program in Alaska; and, finally, served as the Species Coordinator for the Service’s endangered black-footed ferret recovery program.   Mike now lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Interviews

2009

Mike Lockhart is a biologist who has dedicated his career to wildlife conservation and environmental consulting. With 33 years of experience working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focusing on various projects involving endangered species, raptors, carnivores, and more, has recently been heavily involved in both addressing polar bear issues in the Arctic and assessing the environmental impact of wind farms in Wyoming. Mike’s expertise lies in aerial wildlife work and telemetry. He has spent nine field seasons in the Arctic, primarily in the South Beaufort Sea region, conducting hands-on work such as “capturing” bears, collecting biological samples, and fitting radio collars. Mike’s typical day involves early mornings, meticulous equipment preparation, and helicopter missions to locate and capture polar bears, which can be challenging due to the vastness of the Arctic terrain.

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Arctic explorer and wildlife biologist Mike Lockhart recounts his initial apprehension and subsequent fascination with the Arctic. Working in a challenging and unsafe environment made venturing into the Arctic daunting. However, his experiences flying over the frozen ocean, witnessing the majestic ice formations, and encountering polar bears have left him in awe. Mike admires the intelligence and motherly instincts of the bears, while also acknowledging their potential for aggression. Despite the risks, he has developed a deep love for the Arctic and its unique beauty.

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Mike Lockhart, an expert Arctic researcher, discusses the meticulous measurements and data collection involved in studying polar bears. These measurements include standard parameters like age, condition, skull measurements, total length, weight, and various samples for chemical analysis and genetics. Each bear is uniquely identifiable through ear tags and lip tattoos, which allow for accurate identification and tracking. The extensive database built from these efforts over decades provides crucial information on the population structure of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, making it one of the most comprehensive datasets available. Lockhart emphasizes the challenging nature of working with polar bears and acknowledges that climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the species.

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Mike Lockhart discusses the challenges faced by polar bears in the face of rapid climate change. He emphasizes the concern that bears may not be able to adapt quickly enough to the changing ice conditions, often getting stranded on shore or succumbing to long swims in harsh weather to reach the retreating ice. Lockhart highlights the remarkable ability of polar bears to locate food, especially seals, even in vast and icy environments. He mentions their skill in tracking scents and finding hidden breathing holes in the ice, where seals are hiding. Lockhart also shares anecdotes of capturing polar bears, including instances where bears instinctively dive into water to escape helicopters, underlining the importance of ensuring their safety during research efforts. He touches upon the interaction between polar bears and Iñupiaq communities that harvest whales.

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