David Lertzman, a beloved Calgary professor, is dead following what is suspected to be a bear attack near Waiparous Village, northwest of the city.
Cochrane RCMP were notified of a missing man in the area late Tuesday night and began a search with the help of the Calgary police helicopter. Crews found a body just off Moss Trail near Waiparous Creek early Wednesday morning, according to a release.
RCMP tentatively identified the deceased as the missing person, a 59-year-old man from Waiparous. A community Facebook group identified Lertzman as the man who had gone missing, and others have posted online tributes.
Provincial officials say evidence at the scene indicates it may have been a bear attack, but they are still investigating.
They say Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers are conducting a scene investigation to identify and locate the bear that may have been involved.
'A profound impact'
Lertzman was an assistant professor of environmental management and sustainable development at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.
Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School, described his colleague as "one of a kind."
"Every professor waits their whole life for one student to say 'your course changed my life.' That happened to David every single time he did his course. He had a profound impact on hundreds, hundreds, possibly thousands of students, and a profound impact on all of his colleagues as well," he said. "It's just an unbelievable loss."
Dewald said Lertzman's passion for the environment was only overshadowed by his passion for honouring and respecting different people's ways of life, specifically Indigenous views.
"Where the environment is something we protect, something that is a part of us … and David really truly believed that. He helped so many people understand what it means to live at one with the environment, so he had a very unique perspective and it was very powerful."
Lertzman would take students on a week-long wilderness retreat course that included rigorous academic material but also using senses to navigate, and meditation to find your place within the environment.
Lertzman was also a brilliant musician and a beautiful singer — if you weren't his friend, he probably called you his brother, Dewald said.
Dewald said Lertzman's family is hoping to retain their privacy at this sad time.
The area will remain closed as officers attempt to capture the animal.
The medical examiner's office is working to determine the exact cause of death.
Waiparous Village is about 70 kilometres northwest of Calgary.