Dennis Rasmussen knew something was wrong about 1 a.m. Sunday when his blue heeler, Sonny, started making a racket.
Rasmussen went into the garage of his Emerald Hills house and Sonny came running in from the yard, obviously frightened and upset. Rasmussen said he grabbed a .22 rifle with a 10-round clip that he keeps in the garage and went out to see what was wrong.
The first thing he noticed was that it was very dusty. Apparently his horses had also been spooked and had kicked up a lot of dust. Then he saw something coming at him.
"I saw these eyes looking straight through the dust at me," he said.
Holding up a small flashlight, Rasmussen emptied all 10 rounds in the direction of those eyes. It was a black bear, and some of the rounds had obviously hit home.
"It turned and disappeared," he said. "I turned and disappeared, too.
Rasmussen said he went into his house, woke his wife and 15-year-old daughter, grabbed a .243 rifle and went back outside. They have chickens and pigs, too, and they wanted to make sure everything was all right.
With his daughter in one vehicle and Rasmussen and his wife in another, they soon found the bear. It had climbed the tallest tree on their property and was perched about 80 feet off the ground.
They were still looking up at the bear when two Yellowstone County sheriff's deputies showed up at their home at 5025 Indian Ridge Road. Deputy David Evans confirmed later Sunday that deputies responded to a report of shots fired in Emerald Hills, southeast of Lockwood.
They waited with the Rasmussens until Kevin Holland, a game warden with Fish, Wildlife and Parks, showed up around 3 a.m. Rasmussen said Holland told him the bear would be trapped and relocated if it was uninjured, but put down if it had been wounded.
Using spotlights and a powerful scope, Rasmussen said, Holland quickly verified that the bear, a male weighing 180 to 200 pounds, had been wounded.
Holland couldn't be reached for comment Sunday, but Rasmussen said Holland fired once at the bear, hitting it. The bear started climbing down the tree after that, and when it neared the ground Holland shot him again. The bear fell the last three or four feet to the ground.
"As he hit the ground he was dead," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said the bear had been around before, getting into his and his neighbors' garbage and chicken coops and once knocking down part of his fence.
"It was kind of sad to see him go," Rasmussen said, but the bear was growing way too familiar.
If he hadn't been killed, Rasmussen said, "when's he going to decide to come into my house?"