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Former Canmore resident killed in fatal bear attack remembered as 'great man'

“He was attacked by a bear from behind and pushed off a very high embankment – 300 metres – and was found near the river,” Sarah Lertzman said in a Facebook post Thursday.
David Lertzman, 59, died when he was trail running and was attacked by a bear, leading to him falling from a 300-metre high embankment. Photo courtesy of the University of Calgary

CANMORE – The wife of a 59-year-old man killed in a bear attack in the Waiparous area earlier this week says the bear attacked him from behind, sending him over a a steep embankment. 

Sarah Lertzman said David Lertzman, both former Canmore residents before moving to Waiparous, was trail running and seeking his deep connection with nature when the tragic incident occurred on Tuesday (May 4).

“He was attacked by a bear from behind and pushed off a very high embankment and was found near the river,” Sarah said in a Facebook post Thursday (May 6).

“The wounds were consistent with an instantaneous death, so he suffered very little. This was important for me to know.”

The Canmore community is sending an outpouring of love and respect for Lertzman, who worked as a senior instructor Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. Tributes honouring Lertzman are pouring in.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife confirmed the 59-year-old was killed in a bear attack off Moss Trail near Waiparous Creek on Tuesday evening.

RCMP police dog services and the Calgary Police Service Helicopter Air Watch for Community Safety (HAWCS) helicopter unit helped in the search for Lertzman, who was found Wednesday morning.

Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers closed the area, which is not far from Waiparous village, as they tried to locate and capture the bear. There are no further details at this time, but the area remains closed.

Sarah said she had searched for David by herself for two hours early that night and walked right past the point of attack and saw no sign of it.

“I was looking for a man in trouble and not for a scene of something that had happened,” she said.

“By three in the morning we knew he was no longer with us and that it had been a bear attack.”

Sarah thanked the larger community of friends “that so loves this great man.”

She said she was able to sit with him throughout the night on Wednesday, singing songs from the all traditions, especially her husband’s songs.

“We felt him transition fully to spirit between 3:30 and 5 this morning, the astrological Beltane, close to when he was born 60 years ago,” she wrote.

“We felt the bear spirit transition, too. It was as if they were wrapped around each other.”

Staff and friends at the Haskayne School of Businesses, where his energy had made a lasting impact were shocked and saddened to learn of Lertzman’s death, where is energy.

“David was a friend to all, and a brother to many,” said Dr. Jim Dewald, the dean of the Haskayne School of Business, in a release.

“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.”

Since 2004, David led the wilderness retreat, a week-long leadership immersive experience in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that has been transformational for many Haskayne School of Business students.

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.

He was deeply committed to ii’ taa’poh’to'p, the University of Calgary’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 University of Calgary benefited from his close relationships with local Elders.

The university’s flag was lowered to honour Lertzman on May 6.