CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee wildlife officers are warning people not to dump unwanted pets into the wild after a small alligator was removed from a pond outside of Chattanooga. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency believes the alligator wrangled by officers was a pet that had been dumped.

TWRA said Thursday that three wildlife officers recently removed an alligator from a pond located in Bradley County. The animal was transported to a local zoo.

Bradley County is not in the alligator’s historic range, according to the agency. However, a page on the agency’s website said alligators are naturally expanding their their range into Tennessee from the southern border states. There have been several confirmed sightings of alligators in Southwest Tennessee.

TWRA has not stocked any alligators in the state. The agency reminds residents that alligators are a protected species and catching or shooting one is a violation of the law.