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Posted on Fri, May 25, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

'Female lion' seen near Ann Arbor matches description of previous cougar reports

By Pete Cunningham

Cougar-mania has long since died down, but the so-called Ann Arbor Cougar may still be lurking in Washtenaw County.

A woman said she saw what appeared to be a “female lion” on the north side of I-94 near the M-14 interchange in Scio Township on Sunday.

Thumbnail image for Houghton_County_cougar_364578_7.JPG

A picture of a cougar that was spotted in Houghton, Michigan earlier this year.

“I was just looking out the side (of the car) and (the animal) struck me as a female lion,” said Tara Vesprini of Chelsea. “Its huge head, the (tan) color, and just the way it was walking, it didn’t look like a deer or a dog or anything like that.

"It looked like a lion.”

Vesprini said she and her husband, Norman, were traveling home from church on westbound I-94 around 11 a.m. Sunday when she spotted the animal in a clearing near a wooded area about 50 yards from the highway. She said she had a clear look at the animal for several seconds.

“It looked like an adult and the way it was moving, it was prowling,” Tara Vesprini said. “My immediate reaction was that it was a female lion.”

“I asked her what color it was and she said ‘lion color!’” said Norman Vesprini. He did not see the animal.

What was described as a “possible cougar” was spotted March 22 near the University of Michigan’s North Campus.

Though several similar reports were called-in in the immediate aftermath of the initial sighting, Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said the office has not received any calls in more than a month.

University of Michigan Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said no cougar sightings have been reported in "several weeks."

The Vesprinis did not call police on Sunday and had not heard of the cougar sightings until one of Norman’s colleagues brought it up over coffee on Friday morning.

“It came up in conversation over coffee. (The co-workers) brought it up first and then I was like, ‘oh my gosh that sounds exactly like what my wife saw,’” Vesprini said.

In the past four years, at least 11 cougar sightings have been verified in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, including one last week. None have been verified in the Ann Arbor area.

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Contact Pete Cunningham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Dana Guenther

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

I saw a black one run right out in front of the car in front of me Monday about 6:30pm. I couldn't believe I saw what I did. I'd just got on the on I-94 WB ramp from Ann Arbor Saline Rd. I'd just left Kohls. What really caught my eye was its long thick black catlike tail. I couldn't wait to get home and look it up. There's nothing else it could have been. My sister's friend lives on Seymour Rd. in Jackson and said she saw a tan/brown one 3 wks ago at Sugar Loaf Lake, and last week she heard a very loud catlike screech/growl.....went outside to see what it was and a cougar was chasing a fawn that was running for its life in the field next to them.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

For accurate information about cougars, including how to live and recreate safely in lion country, visit:


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 7 p.m.

I still remember driving down I-275 about 15 years ago and looking out my window to see a small herd of elephants grazing at the top of the embankment. You would probably have thought me crazy if I told you that without a bit of additional information. Just beyond the embankment was the Schoolcraft college parking lot. In the parking lot, not visible from the road, Livonia was holding an annual Carnival and Circus celebration.


Mon, May 28, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

she saw something is all that i will offer.

Fred Stelson

Sun, May 27, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

I clearly saw a cougar chasing a deer in the snow ion the edge of Kalamazoo last year. I took pictures of the tracks.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

I lived in South Lyon/Oakland County 20+ years ago; I never saw it, but we also had supposed cougar sightings. I've come FTF with coyotes when I used to walk to work down Platt Rd around 6am, so who's to say we *don't* have a cougar(s)?


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Look it up! Cougars are NOT nocturnal. That being the case I think sitings would be much more frequent.

Gabriel Heiss

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

There have been sightings in EVERY county of Michigan for YEARS. Quite a few in AnnArbor/Washtenaw County and even in Wayne(and Detroit itself) and Oakland Counties.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Dear All: My wife would swear on her life that is what she saw. If it was your wife I wouldn't assume she was lying. If/when this animal is caught on film or, God forbid, harms your dog, cat or child I promise not to say "I told you so". Lighten up, Ann Arbor. from, Chelsea


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

If it harms someone maybe reporting it sooner than a week later could have helped!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Cougars and pumas are the same thing as mountain lions. African lions are not the same as mountain lions.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Do tell what's the difference please.

Soft Paw

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

It's great that we still have some wildlife in the area. It should have good eating with all the deer around the river.

Mr. Ed

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Lions Tigers and Bears oh my.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Auntie Em my shoes aren't working!!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Look people IF there was a "lion" in the area. It would most likely be a Mountain Lion. It would be hard for an experienced hunting guide to distinguish the difference at 65 mph out the side window between a male and female unless they were standing side by side. The male would be the larger one. I don't put much credence in anyone's "sighting" if they don't know there are no know African Lions in Michigan!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

If I was SO sure I saw a "female lion" I would not wait a week to report it!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

The quote was from an well footnoted article in a Law Journal From the MICHIGAN State College of Law! Behind a Glass, Darkly Jennifer L. Tilden (Michigan State University College of Law) 2 Journal of Animal Law 143 (2006) Publish Date: 2006 Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law Lets not play games. The point was two minutes of research on the internet has a Michigan Law Professor in a Law Journal quoting the Michigan Humane Society with supporting evidence that the problem exists here in Michigan. If you bothered to look it up to try and refute it, you saw other supporting evidence as well. What possible reason do you have for believing she is lying? Its a Prima Facie case for plausability. Are the animal rescue organizations are lying about taking in big cats?. The newspapers and police lie when they report or arrest someone for having illegal exotic pets? The FBI and International organizations are all lying about the existance of the exotic animal trade? Is everyone with any knowledge about the subject lying to decieve you? Plausability is about something being reasonably credible . So what do we have? A large body of supporting circumstantial evidence with no counter arguement whatsoever. As for the number of cases, What does it matter If there are 20 or 200 in Michigan specifically? The fact that there have been hundreds of cases nationally and numerous documented cases locally as well as estimates of 10000 or so potential cases. This imparts obvious plausability to the possibility of a single additional case in Ann Arbor unless you have some unshared information as to some property that makes Ann Arbor uniquely immune from pet abandomentor escape. Do you not believe that people keep big cats as pets or do you believe they are never abandoned or never escape?


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

She said it "looked like a female lion". Read carefully. Obiously we knew it was not a lion. We had not heard of the previous cougar sightings. For Pete's sake how stupid do you think we are (oh...I are from Ann Arbor and we're only from Chelsea...).


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

"Detroit shelters report similar problems, including jaguars, lions and leopards often used to guard drugs and contraband." A quote from Behind a Glass, Darkly but no evidence to back it up!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

Running your "fact" together a little? How many are documented in MICHIGAN?


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

So what is implausable to you? That there exists an illegal exotic pet trade in Lions and cougars? A Little internet research Will show irrefutable historic examples of African Lions and other exotic animals being rescued in Michigan. A quote from the Animal Legal and historical center " Additionally, many of the organizations who frequently intervene in animal abuse cases, including local humane shelters, are completely unequipped to handle animals like lions and tigers. Detroit shelters report similar problems, including jaguars, lions and leopards often used to guard drugs and contraband. Big cats have become so frequent, the Michigan Humane Society installed facilities to hold two big cats at a time" There are even legally grandfathered Lions kept as pets. That someone could keep an exotic cat in an populated area? There's even a case of a man found raising a Tiger in an apartment in Harlem. The DNR has repeatedly stated their belief that Cougars in Michigan are probably the result of escaped or released exotic pets. With about 10,000 Tigers, 5000 cougar and a similar number of Lions kept as pet and hundreds of documented escapes and confiscations, including a well publicized release of 18 tigers and 17 lions and 3 cougars in OHIO within the last year less than 250 miles from Ann Arbor, What "information" do you possess that makes in not plausable that any of the 5000 or so privately held cougars pets could have escaped or been released?


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

"It is very plausible that there is actually an African Lion or Cougar running around the Ann Arbor area" Not worthy of an informed response.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

There are no African Lions in Michigan? Of course there are! The exotic pet trade may be illegal, but it clearly exists. To say there are no African Lions in Michigan is like saying there is no Heroin or Marajuana in MIchigan because it is illegal. Several years ago I was having our carpets cleaned and the Carpet cleaner told me about having to clean carpets covered with Lion Pee. It is very plausable that there is actually an African Lion or Cougar running around the Ann Arbor area. If there is, it is virtually certain to be an escaped or release exotic pet.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

The DNR confirmed recently some clear photographic evidence taken by a man of a cougar in Michigan up north. That was in the news very recently. Nothing to say that a cougar would come down this far south, but nothing to say it wouldn't. I wouldn't dismiss this sighting as wholly far-fetched. Some such animals are illegally released by irresponsible owners. But, they are beginning to also recognize that these animals can migrate and there is a good food population here with all the deer. These may be the "entrepreneurs" of the cougar world. However, what I do question is how does the woman know it's a female? She's riding down the highway and sees what she perceives as a cat, it's not like you can get a real good look at the privates... Was it wearing a dress? LOL!

Gabriel Heiss

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

Confirmed only by the DNR who deny a lot of things. There have been sighting all over Michigan(UP and LP) for years and there are signs posted around Sleeping Bear Dunes that is in the LOWER PENINSULA warning pedestrians about mountain lions(not to mention scat and track evidence)


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

She said that it looked like a female lion--- as in Africa --no mane. I've seen so many exotic pets in Michigan-- ostrich --buffalo --emu --lamas-- lions and tigers in Ohio. If a Michigan resident illegally kept large cats and one got free that person would unlikely call authorities in fear of prosecution. I assume what she say was a mountain lion, but I suppose anything is possible. I really don't think all these sitings are lies.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

DennisP Do you know where the Upper Peninsula is? That is where the CONFIRMED sightings were. I doubt a cougar can afford the toll to cross the BRIDGE!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:54 a.m.

The chance that there is a cougar roaming the woods outside of A2 is just as likely that some of the funny folks here on will actually make it to comendy central someday. However, cougars are masters of hiding, even in their normal habitat they are rarely seen in the willd so one transient cougar preying on white tail deer is not impossible.

Gabriel Heiss

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

Uhhhh...go to There have been sighting in ALL of Michigan including Ann Arbor and the rest of Washtenaw FOR YEARS


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 3:02 a.m.

I'm going laugh at all the nay sayers when they find this cat. The story proves how useless eye witness testimony can be at times. I believe you if the story seems likely ,and disbelieve you if your story seems unlikely. If there is a large cat out there a tracking dog (not to harm it) could find it.

Wolf's Bane

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

Relax, Cougars are more afraid of you, than you are of them. Be cool.

Pizza Man

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

I saw a large animal cross the road about a week ago. It might have been that cougar. I was going west on Dexter Ann Arbor Rd near Pratt Rd. That is in the right area. I knew that was a strange animal.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

I wouldn't worry about it. According to this lady the animal is incompetent. It's out "prowling" yet she can see it from 50 yards away traveling at more than 50 miles an hour. Sounds like playing hide-and-seek with my three year old. If it's out there I give it two weeks before it starves or winds up on the front of a semi.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

lol, looks like hippies aren't the only thing you hate!


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

Why can't the City connect 14 to 94 east and 94 west to 14? Cougars hate that sort of sloppy city planning. I think it's time for a few more neon orange cones and signs. Then, the cougar will be gridlocked within the city, to the entertainment and enlightenment of motorists inching along endless construction zones... hey... now... is all this construction really just a plot to get people out of their cars and on bikes, buses and sidewalks? I, for one, will NOT wait on buses, nor walk the sidewalks or peddle the roads ... There's a cougar out there! Nope, I'm staying safely inside my car, inside endless construction zones of traffic, until the city connects 14 to 94 east and 94 west to 14. Period...


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

An while they are at it reduce all highways around the city to one lane so we can enjoy the wildlife while stuck in traffic.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

I remember this happening in Ann Arbor when I was a child, 20 years ago. Maybe its the same cat or a cub of that cat. I did live on the north side of town near dixboro.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

Someone riding in a car, traveling at at least 55-60mph down the expresssway, who only knows how to describe the animal as "lion color". Yet she is AnnArbor.coms resident cougar spotting expert? Oh, by the way I seen an elephant around that area..

Gabriel Heiss

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

"I seen"...


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

... and poor grammar.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

Ever see a dead deer along the side of the road? Were you sure it was a deer? How about a person on the side of the road...were you sure it was a human and not a bird or a yeti? Even at 60 mph? If it is a lion, however, it can't possibly be legitimate? It is so amusing to read comments from the trolls who lurk under the bridge and strike with their smarmy comments...

Randy Parrish

Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Well if I was driving on highway at 55- 75 and saw an elephant I am pretty sure I would say its an elephant. Just like seeing a deer or a cow or a horse.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

Perhaps Emperior Obama will send a drone.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

He already did so. Now we have a lion in addition to a cougar. Where is that bear out by Dexter?


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Maybe he is a drone...............


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:11 a.m.

Thanks for intelligently adding to the conversation.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

The headline should read 'Female lion' reportedly seen. I saw a Unicorn myself!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Did it (the Unicorn) come when you called it? There's a legend about that . . .


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Sounds like a ploy to get the homeless campers to move out!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

I have to chuckle at the cougar comments no matter how juvenile they are.


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

not far from camp Take notice and not at all far from where I live! eeks


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

Cougars like bunnies, be careful out there!


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Perhaps the Washtenaw county sherif should look into a couple of cougar tracking dogs.


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

That would be a waste of money. We might loose those dogs too. Webers anyone?


Fri, May 25, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Not too far from Webers, perhaps it was on its way home after a closing the place on Saturday night and feasting on its prey. On a more serious not, had this been reported riight away someone may have been able to go out in that area and look for tracks or scat. Although, it has been pretty dry as of late so tracks are going to be harder to come by.


Sun, May 27, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

I see what you did there with the "Webers and cougars" thing. hahaha


Sat, May 26, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

haha Good Call on the Webers note! I say if there are Mountain Lions roaming the area it would be a good thing so LET IT LIVE!