(Photo: Vern Fisher, Monterey County Herald/AP)
(USA Today) - The big talk this week at a Southern California golf course wasn't about birdies, eagles or swallows but sharks -- specifically, a 2-foot-long leopard shark found wriggling on the 12th tee, about four miles from the Pacific Ocean, The Capistrano Dispatch reports.
"Honestly, this is the weirdest thing that's happened here," said Melissa McCormack, director of club operations at the San Juan Hills Golf Club.
As she tells it, a course marshal found the sharkMonday afternoon and brought it back to the clubhouse. Bryan Stizer, a cart attendant, then placed it into a bucket of salty water and drove it to a beach at nearby Dana Point, where he released it.
"I thought he was dead," Stizer said. "When I dropped him into the water, he just [lay] there for a few seconds, but then he did a twist and shot off into the water."
The shark was bleeding from puncture wounds near its dorsal fin, leading to speculation that a predatory bird -- perhaps an osprey or peregrine falcon -- had dropped the fish in flight.
Another predator might also be responsible.
"You hate to think a human could do this," said Julianne Steers, chief aquarist at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
The Dispatch does not address whether a club member or someone else might have caught the shark and deposited it on the course as a prank.
San Juan Capistrano is best known for the "miracle" migration of the cliff swallows between Argentina and the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The birds have generally arrived in March and flown south in fall. On Oct. 23, celebrated locally as "Day of San Juan," the birds reputedly circle the Mission before heading to South America for the winter.