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Posted on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Is it a cougar? Ann Arbor residents still reporting 'suspicious' animal

By Kellie Woodhouse

View Mysterious animal sightings in Ann Arbor in a larger map

A week after police reported a possible cougar sighting near theUniversity of Michigan's North Campus, reports of suspicious animal sightings in Ann Arbor are still trickling in.


A Cougar found in Houghton County, Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Retired dentist Mary Such says she spotted a 100-pound brown animal running past her as she walked her dog on Tuesday at about 5 p.m. near the Leslie Woods Nature Area at the intersection of Traverwood Drive and Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor.

"It was not anything I've ever seen before," Such said, adding that the animal "was moving really fast" and "was low to the ground." She said it's too big to a bobcat or deer and too cat-like and fast to be a dog.

Such called 911 immediately.

"You would hate to see somebody's child harmed," she said.

Five days earlier, on March 22, Ann Arborite Karl Grosh was also walking through the woods of the Leslie Nature Area when he spotted a similar looking animal.

"My dog is around 60 to 70 pounds and tore after the thing, so I saw my dog and the animal side by side. The animal I saw moved like a cat... and I estimate it at least one and a half times bigger than my dog," Grosh told "The cougar-like animal was quick and left the scene... my first impression was that this was a cat: cougar (or) bobcat."

U-M police spokesperson Diane Brown said that in the hours and days after the initial suspicious animal sighting near the intersection of Green and Stone roads, several reports of other sightings began to surface. reported suspicious animal sightings on Green Road near the Plymouth Green Crossings and in the backyard of a home in Arrowwood Hills on Pontiac Trail.

"Once I put out the security bulletin to alert the community, that's when we got a few people calling or writing about their variety of observation," Brown said.

Police even received a mailed picture of a suspicious-looking paw print, but did not analyze it or send it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"I gave it to my officer," Brown said of the print photograph. "I don't know that the (officer) went any further."

Since Monday U-M hasn't received additional email reports of suspicious animal sightings. Brown said she did not know if police received phone reports because those are not tracked.


A cougar sighted in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


A cougar sighted in Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"I am not aware that we've heard anything since (the weekend)," Brown said.

Brown said police do not believe the suspicious animal is a cougar.

"The DNR specialist whose work this is said it's very highly unlikely that there would be a cougar involved," she said.

Adam Bump, the bear and furbearer specialist with the DNR that Brown referenced, told that while a cougar sighting in Ann Arbor is unlikely, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

"They're capable of traveling long distances and ending up in places you wouldn't normally think," Bump said.

In the past four years, at least 10 cougar sightings have been verified in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. None, however, have been verified in Ann Arbor, despite "hundreds of submissions of potential sightings" each year, Bump said.

The more likely explanation for the sightings, Bump says, is confusion and a lack of wildlife knowledge that leads people to misreport.

"You would be amazed at the kind of things that have been submitted as cougars or even cat-like that I wouldn’t consider cat-like," Bump said.

Often large cats, light colored dogs, bobcats and even coyotes are misreported as cougars; and after media reports about a cougar sighting begin to surface, a flurry of additional sightings usually follow, Bump said.

"Either it puts an idea in their head or they remember a sighting that was strange," Bump explained.

Bob and Judy Wolff, who live near Pontiac Trail, told the suspicious animal sightings probably have more to do with coyotes than cougars.

"We have several coyotes who live nearby. Many of us have seen and heard them. In fact, one just walked through our backyard yesterday morning," they said in an email. "The coyotes are fairly large, about the size of a German Shepherd dog and have been in our area for quite a few years... added to that, the dogs are yellow, much the same color as a cougar."

Holly Hadac, a coyote expert with the the Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project, said coyotes in the Lower Peninsula are usually between 25 and 40 pounds, smaller than most cougars.

"Cougars look like cats because they are felines and coyotes are canines because they are dogs," Hadac said. "You should be able to tell the difference by the prints, the cougar prints would be much larger."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

My wife swore a cougar ran in front of her car as she was coming southbound off US-23 at Exit 31 Willis Road about one month ago. I poo poohed her big time as she told me what she saw but she swore it was a cougar. Too big for a coyote ( we see them several times a year in the back yard) , too big for a bobcat and it had a very long tail. After questioning her for a long time, I do believe she saw a cougar. Good Day


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 3:57 a.m.

Wednesday March 28th, 2012: 30 Minutes to sunset. I was walking my three large dogs with my fiance in Bluffs park, right off of Main Street, within one mile of Leslie Park (Where we also often venture). We were in the dusty opening in the middle of the trails, near the fire pit. The sky was very overcast. The sandy soil was muddy in some areas. We did not travel back on our tracks. I got a feeling then looked down. I noticed a very large paw print. 4 toes and huge pad. It was 5" x 5" and sat in fresh mud. The tracks lead right off the trail NW into a deer trail. It was not a deer track. I don't want to speculate. I will be traveling out to take photos of the area. The sightings show a Westward movement. Happy cougar tracking.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

I've been walking all over this area for about two weeks and have not seen any deer - so either they are lost in the woods mating or there really is a cougar or something around. Wise to take care just in case but not cower in fear.

say it plain

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

That's actually a really good point! I typically see deer at least once or twice a week around the areas where the cougar sightings have been reported--but none in the last couple!


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

It's now been spotted in southern Ontario:

paul wiener

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

It is obviously the same cougar shown in the other photos; you can tell by the wedding ring.

Allison Camara

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Well when Domino's Farms come up with a missing/dead buffalo we will know it's a cougar, just wait if it can't find enough deer, don't think that will happen though but it could get tired chasing after them, it will go for a buffalo one of these days if it's around. Just don't let your kids look out the windows going down 23 don't want them seeing a torn up one.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

bunnyabbot - Your "docile" bison will not be so calm when being attacked. It will look much like a wild bison at that point - if you can find a wild bison anywhere in the US to make such a comparison (all are domesticated to a greater or lessor extent). Plus, the point I was making is that to a cougar, from the evolutionary perspective of a cougar, a bison is not as likely a prey as are deer, dogs, or even horses. The cougar is probably not as versed in the nuances of behavioral responses between a "docile" bison and a "wild" bison as you think.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

a cougar might go after a bison, specially some docile one at Dominos that are more livestock anyway. A cougar could definately take one down if properly motivated for a meal, however there is more "food" available at DF for them to go after. However there are many known instances when a cougar went after a horse or mule and lost the fight. (one I know in which the mule protected a little boy and another when a horse protected its rider and family dog).


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

while many call them incorrectly buffalo they are technically Bison.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Have you actually seen a buffalo up close? There's no way a cougar goes after a buffalo instead of a deer, no matter how much its lost the taste for chasing down a deer. The energy it takes to take down a buffalo is several times greater than the energy it takes to take down a deer, a horse, and especially a dog, whose fearless traits we bred into them often get them eaten.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

The paw prints should justify research such as DNA testing on fur or scat that must be quite close to the prints. The only Wolverine sighting in Michigan was photographed and the use of DNA proved that the Wolverine had come from an identified family from either Canada or N.W. territories.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Almost everyone's cell phone has a camera! But not a photo to be seen!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

You raise an interesting point. If there is a Cougar out there at some point somebody will get a picture.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

For a little danger perspective my Googling seems to indicate about 20 fatal cougar attacks in the United states in the last 120 years. There were somewhere near 30-31 fatal dog attacks in 2011 alone. Granted there are a lot more dogs available to kill you so that stat is a bit skewed. But kep in mind...there are a lot more dogs available (and willing) to kill you.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

@ tdw: Re: "...does not belong (sic) areas populated by humans" That would be the world, I guess. Where do you draw the line?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Sorry, I should have made it more simple for you, how about " areas with a dense human population ? " is that more clear ?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

It's amazing that a joke doesn't have to be funny. It just has to contain sexual innuendo, and all of the bottom feeders come out!

Basic Bob

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

I don't get it.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

We haven't heard anything of the Dexter bear lately. Maybe it's wearing a cougar costume, and roaming around the northern part of town.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 8:33 a.m.

Coyotes don't move anything like a cat.Just watch your house cat while it is hunting , cougars would move in a similar fashion. It is hard to describe the way coyotes move but after watching some in open fields there is no way I could confuse one with a cougar.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:32 a.m.

Cougars have been on the move east from the Rocky Mountains for many years as documented by many biologists. They are transient animals and one passing through wouldn't be that shocking, most likely it will move on before anyone else can spot it. Although the descriptions from witnesses do not describe cougar behavior. Cougars hunt in silent, stalking their pray, as most all victims of cougar attacks report hearing absolutely nothing until they are taken down. I'm interested to see what this really turns out to be, but I'm leaning more towards a couple city coyotes than a 200lb feline.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Arth: Wrong, many people have survived cougar and grizzly bear attacks, some research.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

"most all victims of cougar attacks report hearing absolutely nothing until they are taken down" Correction: most all victim of cougar attacks report absolutely nothing (because they're dead).


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

Jesus so what? It's a cougar not a anaconda. It's not going to hurt anybodies child. Leave it be.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

sid....sorry real life is not a Disney movie.A 100-200 lb predator ( human or non human ) does not belong areas populated by humans


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

Cougars have been known to run 35-45 mph.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

@JMA2Y the correct thing to do if you encounter a cougar (aka mountain lion, puma). Would be to not make eye contact, back away slowly (don't turn around but step backwards), make a lot of noise (avoid animal noises) and wave your arms about (to make yourself appear larger in frame). Throw a rock if you can. A cougar will indeed go for your jugular, usually your neck/head would be the prime target "to bring down a kill". Although most people sustain a lot of defensive wounds (punctures) to the hands and arms and to the legs. A cougar is all muscle, they have been known to attack after stalking joggers, a woman was killed a couple years ago running near a school and subdivision in Colorado, in quite a populated area. Fight back if you are attacked. Best not to walk or run alone in the sighting areas.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

"...hate to see somebody's child harmed"??? These things do not attack only small prey. Cougars a.k.a. mountain lions, are well known to have attacked many adults and killed a few in California and elsewhere. They will kill and eat horses. If you encounter one, don't flee as it may think you're prey and run for you. Stay still and make a lot of noise. If you've ever watched house cats fight, they go for the neck to still the victim. Cougars do also.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

I notice the cougar crosses Plymouth road often. If it's in the crosswalk. Do I still have to yield?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:38 a.m.

"Once I put out the security bulletin to alert the community, that's when we got a few people calling or writing about their variety of observation," Brown said. " Of course. Everyone wants to be part of whats happening. Sad. This. I hope I never get that needy.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Lots of deer in those areas,look for deer caucuses.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

Not bad, mentalNomad. Finally some actual humor in this comment section, thank you!


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

The Deer Caucases will definitely vote "No" on Cougars.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.


Frustrated in A2

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

I once saw a white horse type of animal with a single horn coming out of the front of its head. I wonder if I should call 911?!?!

Ann English

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

If some dogs will play with coyotes around here, coyotes are as harmless as foxes. I think that Wyss, who wrote Swiss Family Robinson, wrote in that book that a jackal is a hybrid of a dog and a fox. Haven''t seen a red fox yet this spring, but when I do see them, they don't run, they walk. Once I heard on the radio that coyotes don't howl, but yip. Not that anything was said in this article about what a coyote sounds like. It's been over a decade since a coyote was hit by a vehicle on US-23 near Plymouth Road. That seems to be a favorite area for wildlife even today. Just as long as they don't get too close to M-14, where exotic animals have been kept at Dominos Farms, such as a zebu.

Ming Bucibei

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

A singer (adult ~ 20 years old) was killed and partially eaten by a pack of coyotes in canada a couple of years ago!! Verified and some ot the coyotes were killed and human remains were in their digestive systems!! Coyotes are dangerous large predators which hunt in packs Google singer killed by coyotes in canada!! Ming Bucibei


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

At the very least mulitple people have reportedly seen an animal they deemed to be suspicious, that is an animal that seems out of the ordinary to be around this area. As there is a somewhat large percentage of people that own a cat or dog, or both, or have been around both a dog or a cat in some way at some point in thier life and report that the animal moved in a "cat" like manner my best guess would be it was some sort of "feline". Certainly the man who said his dog took off after it reported that it appeared to move like a "Cat". This is actually significant. A dog normally wouldn't go after a coyote. At least out west a coyote being a "canine" tends to attack dogs (but not a wolf, however a wolf would attack either), that is the lower animal on the canine chain (domesticated dog) usually would not go after a wilder canine. But this is just what I know from reading a lot about it, but I am no expert.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

"At the very least mulitple people have reportedly seen an animal they deemed to be suspicious" Not hard to find a couple dozen questionable people around here! What has a coyote and wolf have to do with it? Photo of Lab chasing coyote


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

My dogs go after coyotes whenever they see them, and a neighbor dog has been known to play with them.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

"furbearer specialist" funny


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Maybe a rogue English Mastiff?

G. Orwell

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

Of course it's a cougar. Any idiot can tell by the photo. Someone better do something about it before it kills a child, pet or even an adult. I am amazed there has not been a greater urgency and effort to catch it. What I understand is that it is the DNR that released the cougars into the wild. It explains why the DNR is ignoring the obvious.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

G. Orwell Do you know where Houghton County Michigan is? They would have to pay a toll to cross the bridge!That's like saying because there are Asian carp in Indiana, they are likely in Whitmore Lake.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

What picture? "A cougar et ma baby" is a highly unlikely scenario!

G. Orwell

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

My bad. Looked at the headline and pictures only. Anyways, there are too many reportings of a very large cat and if a cougar is in Houghton County, it is likely it is here.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Know what else any idiot can tell from the photo(s)? These pictures weren't taken in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

you mean the photos above of cougars sightings other places in Michigan?


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Sorry, but the DNR has very little credibility. They always deny this kind of thing and then photos come in and they have egg on their face. It wasn't that long ago they were issuing the same denial about the U.P. Look how that has been proven wrong.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 11:06 a.m. long as the state doesn't steal from them.Their funding comes from hunters and fishermen.And not many people know this but there is a excise tax on all firearms ,ammunition and archery equipment .Only 4.5 percent or their budget comes from the general fund

Kai Petainen

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

don't get me started on the DNR. they probably don't have the time or the money to care....


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

I like the fact that wild animals like this are on the loose in our area, Pure Michigan!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

I'm sure if the authorities really wanted to find out if this is a cougar they could hire a cougar( from out west) hunter ( one with tracking dogs) and tree this animal.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

djm.....yep.If you google cougars,cougars in Michigan pops up it's a DNR site


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Let me know if you see it so I can pet it, hug it, squeeze it, love it and call it George....just don't shoot it! Keep your kids and pets inside or at least supervised and let it be, hopefully all will be well, it belongs here too!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

@djm12652 - yes, they've been spotted at Knight's and Fraser's on more than one occasion.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Were cougars native to this area before?


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

LOL...bugs and abominable snow man!!!

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

"Police even received a mailed picture of a suspicious-looking paw print, but did not analyze it or send it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources." seeing an actual footprint on the ground, analyzed by a professional could go along way toward identifying the creature in question. If I saw the animal I would call 911 and wait in hopes a footprint could be found. Its kind of like dental records...they can be important.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Yeah, what's up with that reaction from them? I guess it's better to wait for reports of missing pets.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Have they tried putting out some giant balls of yarn? Or perhaps some fine furniture that it could scratch on and we could catch Kitty in the act?


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

smokeblwr.....That one got me laughing


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Or a dump truck full of catnip and then wait until it dozes off after a couple of birdie brownies.....


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

I'd post a cougar web site but I'd get deleted, possibly banned

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

It is not me. I would not be seen in public without my hat and vest.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

We need ... Officer Dibble to find that cougar, Top Cat.

John of Saline

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

It's nice to see someone in the Ann Arbor area take appearance seriously.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Bobcats are 1/5 to 1/10 the weight of a cougar, so I would rule that out. It's funny to me that the police do not believe it's a cougar. Hey Mr. Policeman, sometimes ordinary citizens do know what they are looking at!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Funny that the 1/2 off wine coupon appears above the cougar picture. Luckily it didn't say "Free Admission, Older Ladies Night"...


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

The DNR likes to come out and say that it's not likely to see any animal that they don't believe exists in the lower penninsula environment. That didn't stop a cougar from getting into Jackson county a few years back. Plenty of sightings and it absolutely destroyed a horse from a local farm in Parma. Ask photographers that do a lot of work in the U.P. what they have seen and the DNR will completely deny it.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

It could be Courageous Cat. If it is, we need to get a catalytic converter on his car. Or maybe it's Top Cat. Or maybe it's Simba the Lion King...

John of Saline

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

Is it a cougar? Well, does it hit on younger guys?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

OK, we get it. Cougar is now a term for older ladies who like younger guys, and has been for years. Ha ha ha?