Melissa McCormack, director of club operations at the San Juan Hills Golf Club in San Juan Capistrano, said the small shark was found in the grass with puncture wounds indicating it had been carried by a bird, The Orange County (Calif.) Register reported Wednesday.
"We couldn't believe it was still alive," McCormack said. "There was a puncture wound under his dorsal fin and there was fresh blood. We assumed he was picked up by a bird and dropped there."
"This is definitely the weirdest thing I've ever seen here," she said. "There's been nothing as bizarre as this. We'll get the occasional mountain lion and coyote, but nothing like this."
McCormack said the shark was put in a bucket of water and taken to Dana Point Harbor, where it was released into the ocean and immediately swam away.
Dan Sforza, assistant chief of the California Department of Fish and Game, said the idea of the small leopard shark being carried by a bird "sounds fishy to me."
"It seems weird it could be out of the water that long. It doesn't sound like it could be a recipe for success," he said.
Sforza said the shark may have been dumped at the course by a human.
"Leopard sharks are legal to possess but they have to be 3 feet long," he said. "There is a black-market trade out there for leopard sharks. They're real cool-looking. Maybe it got too big for someone's tank."