Oh deer, you might need a good afternoon to enjoy and absorb all the art on display for “From the Wilds of Jasper,” the new exhibit at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum. | Scott Hayes / Jasper FitzhughScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The remarkable true story is that, yes, the area now known as Jasper National Park was once a place where bison could be found.

Apparently, plains bison roamed the valleys and mountainsides here for tens of thousands of years. The evidence of this is scattered throughout the area. A map with many pins shows many of the locations where bones were found, or where early settlers had encounters.

Bison were likely extirpated from the park due to overhunting in the 1880s.

That incredible piece of information comes courtesy of “From the Wilds of Jasper,” the new exhibit at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum. The show features photography and artwork by Johane Janelle and Wes Olson, who spent many years as a warden in Elk Island National Park.

All told, he has over 40 years of working in the field of bison conservation under his belt.

“He is one of the foremost experts on bison in North America from what I understand,” said Heather Legacy, the museum’s general manager.

Taking all that direct experience, he then found a way to translate his love of wildlife into something that could be shared and would last longer. He became an artist and an author of multiple bison-based non-fiction titles. 

Janelle, his partner, is an accomplished photographer as well. She offered her photographs for Olson’s first two books. 

Together, they have compiled a formidable art exhibit from their prodigious joined collections. Her pictures complement his sketches and paintings in beautiful, loving and occasionally humourous ways. In one, a young male deer with early antlers seems to peer quizzically at the photographer from overhead.

They co-authored the new book called “The Ecological Buffalo: On the Trail of a Keystone Species.” That was the subject of Olson’s talk on the opening night of the exhibit. It proved to be so popular that many copies of the book have already been sold from the museum’s gift shop.

The exhibit itself is practically an artistic menagerie that fills the walls. In one corner, there is also a small walk-in area made to look and feel like one of his old warden’s cabins. The sign reads, “Hoodoo Shelter.”

“This is the largest show that they’ve ever done. It’s the first show that we’ve ever hosted for them,” Legacy said. “It’s been really well received.”

Much of the artwork is for sale as well. 

Among the artistic elements that have been drawing in visitors to the museum is a special item on loan: Dusty, the mounted bison head from the Jasper RCMP detachment. It’s as close as you can safely get to a bison.

A display case also offers Olson’s bison coat, which looks like it would have kept a warden warm during the worst Alberta blizzard.

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 28, 2024 at 16:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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