LEWISTON, Idaho — State biologists have no idea how a threatened gopher tortoise, native to the South, made its way to the local golf course.

But they have sent the creature to a new home in Texas.

The threatened species was handed over to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game by someone who found it near a pond at the Lewiston Golf and Country Club.

Gopher tortoises are found in southern South Carolina eastward to Louisiana.

Populations west of the Mobile River in Alabama are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Game officials assume someone kept the tortoise as a pet and then decided to release it.

The cereal-bowl-size tortoise is now living at a tortoise sanctuary in Texas. Since disease is one of the factors threatening the species, individuals that are kept as pets cannot be released back into the wild.

Fish and Game biologist Rita Dixon said it is irresponsible to release captive animals back into the wild or to capture wild animals and keep them as pets.

She warned this is the time of year they often receive calls from people who have picked up deer fawns or other young animals, believing they have been abandoned by their mothers.