University of Calgary senior instructor killed in suspected bear attack near Waiparous

CALGARY — The University of Calgary community is mourning the loss of a senior instructor called “a friend to all, and brother to many.”

Dr. David Lertzman was killed Tuesday in a suspected bear attack while out jogging near his home in Waiparous, Alta., northwest of Calgary.

Cochrane RCMP were notified of a missing person just before midnight Tuesday when Lertzman’s wife called to say he had gone for a run about 6 p.m. and not returned. A search was then launched involving a helicopter and a police dog.

Just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, he was found deceased just off Moss Trail, which has been closed while officials investigate.

Lertzman was a senior instuctor at the University of Calgary and talked about his love for the outdoors in a video posted online April 21.

“I’m greeting you from the eastern slopes of Canada’s Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta,” says the bearded Letzman, who is wearing a tuque and standing in a snow-covered forest.

He says he works in the field of “sustainability, leadership development and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

“I’m also a long-term martial arts practitioner, Qigong, and meditation instructor,” he said.

“This is my temple, it’s the dojo,” he added, motioning to the trees around him. “Folks, if you have a dream, if you have the drive, the determination, sincere questing spirit, fierceness and the humility, this is the place to do it. You can achieve just about anything.”

Dr. Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskane School of Business, called Lertzman “a friend to all, and a brother to many.”

David was a valued senior instructor who had worked with Haskayne since 2000, but truly he was so much more. He was our spiritual leader, our Indigenous connection and our sustainability hero,” he said.

Lertzman had led a wilderness retreat since 2004, described as “a week-long leadership immersive experience in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that has been transformational for many Haskayne School of Business students.”

He was so dedicated to the retreat that Lertzman spent around 100 hours creating an experience that could be shared over Zoom during the pandemic.

“At the wilderness retreat, Lertzman focused on leadership topics in the larger context of sustainability, helping students clarify their core values, sense of purpose and call to service as leader,” read a statement from the university. 

“He was deeply committed to ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy. He brought to the forefront the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, particularly resolution 92 — the role that business has to play in healing the past. Haskayne students learned in his classroom from the survivors of the residential school system and UCalgary benefited from his close relationships with local elders.”

The UCalgary flag is being lowered on campus on Thursday to honour Lertzman.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is working with RCMP and the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death. Wildlife officers are also searching for the bear.

Kyle Juneau, a fish and wildlife inspector, said this can be a dangerous time of year in terms of human-wildlife conflict.

“It’s springtime and we all know in this area bears are plentiful, grizzly bears, black bears, the spring is especially dangerous, they’re hungry, they’re out of the den,” he said.

“They’re wandering to where they had food last fall.”

Should the bear be captured, Juneau said a decision will be made about its fate.

“Capturing the bear, relocating, euthanizing, all the options will be weighed out but it’s too early to tell what we’re dealing with,” he said. 

“Is it a male bear? Is it a female bear with cubs? All of those things we refer back to our matrix and consult with our biologists and make the appropriate decisions then.”

Waiparous Creek is about 70 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

Dangerous wildlife can be reported through the 24-hour Report-A-Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.

With files from CTV Calgary’s Kevin Fleming

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