Wes Olson | Book Reviews

Portraits of the Bison: An Illustrated Guide to Bison Society

“Olson, a Canadian park warden, has written a brief field guide to the bison, the bulk of which identifies these animals by gender and at various stages of maturity. Aimed at bison watchers and Western outdoor enthusiasts, the book contains a rich array of images and anatomical illustrations by equine photographer Janelle.” Alvin Hutchinson, Library Journal, September 2005

“A truly remarkable work, Portraits of the Bison is an ideal and enthusiastically recommended addition to both school and community library North American wildlife reference collections--and especially commended to the non-specialist general reader wanting to know more about the social structures and relationships of a bison herd.” Sharon Stuart, Reviewer's Bookwatch, October 2005

”Alberta rancher and park warden Olson and his wife, photographer Johane Janelle, have devoted more than 20 years to the study of the lumbering prairie beasts. This lovely book features hundreds of colour photographs and detailed, labelled illustrations, covering every aspect of bison life, but always focusing on the family and herd dynamics that were so important to this icon of the Old West." The Globe and Mail, October 29, 2005

"Some may already be familiar with [Olson's] meticulous line drawings, which place him among the most talented of wildlife illustrators." Ken Tingley, The Edmonton Journal, November 13, 2005

"[Olson's] fascination with bison led him to publish Portraits of the Bison: An Illustrated Guide to Bison Society. It's an easily read and understood book about bison social structures, age and gender identification, and the care that should be taken around these clever animals. According to Olson, more people are injured each year by bison than by grizzly bears. One quick tip, until you can read the entire book: watch the tail, which is the barometer of a bison's mood. If it's raised into the vertical, make tracks in the other direction, Olson advises." Barb Glen, The Western Producer, January 5/06

“…I enjoyed Portraits of the Bison. Clearly, Olson loves the creatures. Simply but eloquently he writes about how lucky he is in his choice of profession. After 20 years as a ranger, he still marvels when he can say at the end of the day, ‘I saw a buffalo today.’” Susan Jones, The St. Albert Gazette, December 7, 2005

“The book presents a good deal of information and is written with a light touch. Although it is particularly useful for visitors to bison parks and will help them gaining a much as possible of their visit, it is also interesting for all readers keen to broaden their knowledge of life, social relationships and recognizing various herd members of American bison. Thanks to excellent portraits of the animals, readers a bit more familiar with European bison can easily learn the external differences between these two close species. “ Katarzyna Daleszczyk, Acta Theriologica, Volume 51, Number 2, April 2006

“The buffalo is the symbol of the Old West and even though the big herds of millions have long vanished, the remnants of herds draw thousands of tourists yearly. PORTRAITS OF THE BISON: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO BISON SOCIETY features Johane Janelle's lovely photos as it documents bison society, offering a blend of photos and illustrations to survey bison natural history.” California Bookwatch, May 2006

“[The book identifies bison] through drawings, photographs, and text in a manner that is both readable and informative. The combination of fine art, beautiful photography, and 20 years of accumulated knowledge about bison ecology and life history makes this book unique.” University Press Books, Sixteenth Edition, 2006.

“[Olson] goes into detail in discussing the physical and social characteristics of bison of different genders and stages of development, as well as the seasonal cycles that make up a bison’s life. His descriptions of the two different types, the plains bison and wood bison, make clear a fact that most Americans do not know….[I]f you are looking for an overview of what a bison’s life must be like, along with photographs showing the beauty of this most photogenic of animals, this is certainly among the best resources I’ve come across.” Steven L. Danver, Journal of the West, vol. 45, No.2, Spring 2006.

“[In May 2006], 72 plains bison from Elk Island were released into Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. ‘It was an amazing sight,’ says Olson, ‘the first time since 1883 there were bison roaming in their natural grassland habitat; a calf was born for the first time in 130 years on that landscape’. Steve Noakes, Westworld, September 2006.

“Few believed that the plains bison populations would recover [from irresponsible hunting] – including Wes Olson, a park warden at Elk Island National Park for 20 years. But in May this year, as Olson’s book Portraits of the Bison: An Illustrated Guide to Bison Society appeared in bookstores, 72 plains bison from Elk Island were released into Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. ‘It was an amazing sight,’ says Olson, ‘the first time since 1883 there were bison roaming in their natural grassland habitat; a calf was born for the first time in 130 years on that landscape.’” Westworld Alberta, September 2006.

“Following a brief history of bison in North America, the book is divided into two main sections—a guide for interpreting bison behavior, especially pertaining to interactions with human, and a field guide designed to allow individuals to determine bison herd social structure and identify the age and gender of individual bison. Few previous books have done as impressive a job on these two subjects….It is the section describing how bison morphology varies with gender and age, however, that is the book’s most valuable contribution….[Portraits of the Bison] is a looking glass into the previously cloudy world of bison society and should be enjoyed by bison enthusiasts and novices alike.” Greg Wilson, Great Plains Research, Vol. 16, No.2, 2006.

"[Olson] produced this richly illustrated book for two reasons: to warn people about the dangers these animals pose and to educate people about bison social structure. Olson achieves both his goals and more….This is an excellent book for anyone who wants a detailed understanding of bison." Sandy Campbell, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006.

"Profusely illustrated throughout and especially recommended for both community and academic library collections....A superbly presented and thoroughly 'user friendly' guide for non-specialist general readers with an interest in bison. Wisconsin Bookwatch, March 2007"

"Wes Olson is a talented artist and the book is abundantly illustrated with his drawings of bison, providing vivid evidence of keen observation and long study. His wife, Johane Janelle, contributed many outstanding colour photographs, capturing bison in different moods and surroundings..... This book will certainly be relevant to anyone who works with bison in the field or has an interest in bison population studies, wildlife biology, or ecology. However, I think it has much broader appeal and will also intrigue anyone who simply likes watching bison and wants to learn more about them. The book can also be enjoyed on a purely aesthetic level, because the photographs and drawings are in themselves so attractive and fascinating." Alwynne B. Beaudoin, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol. 119, Iss. 4, 2005

Portraits Of The Bison: An Illustrated Guide To Bison Society by Wes Olson (Senior Warden, Elk Island National Park, Alberta, Canada) is an informed and informative introduction to the history, social structure, and life cycle of bison enhanced with anatomical illustrations as well as the color photography by Johane Janelle. Readers will learn how to identify bison by age and gender, and the differences between the wood bison and plains bison species. A truly remarkable work, Portraits Of The Bison is an ideal and enthusiastically recommended addition to both school and community library North American wildlife reference collections -- and especially commended to the non- specialist general reader wanting to know more about the social structures and relationships of a bison herd. Midwest Book Review.

From the Back Cover

“More than any other animal, the buffalo has become the icon of the Old West. From Mexico to Alaska, the oportunity to see again on the prairies this remnant of the vanished millions draws ever-increasing thousands of tourists simply to catch a close-up view.…As a long-time bison enthusiast I can unreservedly recommend Portraits of the Bison to anyone who even contemplates going near a buffalo.” Clarence Tillenius, from the Foreword. "I saw a buffalo today." Our fascination with these magnificent creatures draws thousands every year to wilderness areas to view them in their natural setting. As a park warden at Elk Island National Park, Wes Olson shares his knowledge of the history, social structure, and life cycle of bison with people daily, emphasizing safety and awareness while observing them. Portraits of the Bison expertly documents bison society with numerous colour photographs, detailed anatomical illustrations, and engaging description. The detailed illustrations and photographs enable age and gender identification from birth to death and explore the differences between the wood bison and plains bison species. This beautiful guide will captivate nature lovers and bison experts as it reveals the story of this wanderer of the plains. Bison society is composed of individuals and families, of bands and clans that span many generations. Portraits of the Bison describes, in easily understood detail, who the individuals are that make up this society. It identifies them through drawings, photographs, and text and even a stranger to bison society can view a herd and within a short while, discern who the members of a group are and how they relate to each other and even provides a glimpse into their unique life history. Wes Olson is a Senior Warden at Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada and has been observing bison behaviour across North America for over thirty years. His drawings and photographs of these magnificient animals throughout the book illustrate his knowledge of bison society. Johane Janelle has travelled extensively with her husband, Wes Olson, to photograph the plains and wood bison of North America. Her love of horses has developed into a custom equine photography business and her photographs have graced horse magazines in Canada and the United States. Together Wes and Johane own and operate the Broken Lantern Ranch, where they raise purebred plains bison and Canadian warmblood horses.