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Are you baiting a cougar? How to keep the large cat out of your backyard

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The DNR says they've gotten reports of lots of cougar sightings recently, but what should you do if you encounter one?

Are you accidentally baiting the big cat?

The Wisconsin Humane Society's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center says you aren't likely prey for the big cat, and your dog isn't their first choice either, but you should take precautions to be safe.

"If you have an animal, it's recommended your dog is on leash, cat are kept indoors, and if you have a really small dog you're walking with and you do see a cougar, I'd recommend to pick that dog up," said Crystal Sharlow-Schaefer, Wildlife Supervisor with the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Also, keep an eye on your dog while in the backyard or during bathroom breaks.

The cougar will likely not treat anything in its path as prey unless it is actively hunting. Crystal Sharlow-Schafer explains anyone that's been around a house cat should know what "actively hunting" looks like:

brookfield cougar web xtra from CBS 58 News on Vimeo.

Cougars usually feed on small prey like rabbits and squirrels. Keeping those animals at bay will keep you safer.

Experts say it will likely move on if it doesn't find what it's looking for: food, shelter and a mate.

"Don't feed your pets outdoors. Keep all that food, anything that may attract potential prey for these guys... if you're feeding deer, if you're feeding rabbits, anything like that outside -- even bird feeders will attract potential prey. So you may just want to pull some of that in or stop feeding in certain areas if the cougars have been seen there," said Sharlow-Schaefer.

Also, keep the trash indoors as long as possible.

"It's generally recommended for all wildlife. Any trash outside, anything that could be seen as potential food source, just pull that in," said Sharlow-Schaefer.

If you do come face to face with a cougar here's what you should do:

1. Don't run

2. Make eye contact

3. Don't turn your back to the cougar

4. Try to appear big

5. Walk slowly away from the cougar

When you're safe, call the police and the DNR.

If you believe a cougar has been in your yard, you can click here to fill out the 'Large Mammal Observation Form' on the DNR's website.

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