Two weeks ago an experienced spear fisherman, Warren Hughes, swimming a reasonable distance from the mouth of the Russell River, north of Innisfail, was partially eaten by a 4.3 metre crocodile.
His family and friends are shocked beyond belief because death by crocodile attack is a very unpleasant way to die.
Now it seems this croc had been previously captured by wildlife officers then released because it did not show any signs of aggression. The Russell River is known locally to be crawling with crocodiles and has been for many years.
A prominent and respected professional member of the North Queensland community reported a large crocodile in the Russell River to the Department of Environment in recent months.
KAP Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter’s office has been informed that allegedly the reported crocodile was then trapped by the Department and released again as it did not show aggressive behaviour and was thought not to be a threat. It is said to have measured 4.3 metres.
This croc that attacked the Cairns spearfisherman was shot dead by wildlife officers last Tuesday. Any person living in the far north knows instinctively a crocodile from 500 mm to five metres long is a threat to humans.
This comes just two weeks after the State Government announced its crocodile management plan, where ‘remove and release’ are considered a key feature.
Mr Katter said, “We are saying you need croc culling, whether you put them into farms or whether you shoot them.
“The fundamental failure of the Government is that is has not come to grips with the grave danger to people, human beings from flying foxes and crocodiles. There couldn’t be a worse way to die.
“The way a crocodile kills you is just horrific. Who would impose that danger upon the people of your state?”
“The Government is talking about management programs that will scientifically assess the numbers and monitor and remove… ‘Remove, yeah to where?’ Well, North Queenslanders are laughing.
Seven years ago, a former member of Parliament had a mob of horses running in a leased paddock that fronted the freshwater upper reaches of the Russell River upstream from the Bruce Highway bridge .
There were several mares and foals running in the paddock over 12 months. When the owner came back to get the horses there were no foals and two mares were also missing.
A local farmer said he saw a crocodile attack a foal on the water’s edge so it was not hard to work out what had happened to the other horses.
An Aboriginal community member from Cape York Peninsula told Cairns News a week ago that not only saltwater crocs are in plague proportions but the smaller freshwater crocodile has bred profusely in creeks and rivers on the Peninsula over the past 40 years.
Dozens of ‘freshies’ were counted last year in a small, seasonal waterway just north of the Mitchell River in a nearly dry hole measuring 50 metres by five metres.
This was not normal and their numbers were so high that “not a fish has been left in our creeks and waterholes because the freshies cleaned up the lot,” said the traditional owner.
He said the explosion of crocodile numbers had unbalanced the environment and he doubted the barramundi and catfish numbers would ever be restored.
Mr Katter said he supported crocodile safari hunting run by Aboriginal communities to supplement their dwindling income in areas that once supported thousands of cattle and many jobs for indigenous people.
The Douglas Shire Council at Port Douglas is worried their tourist town will be bypassed by overseas visitors because of large crocodiles found at their beaches. Over the past three weeks three dogs have been taken by crocs while walking along their famous beaches. Late last year a woman was killed by a large croc just north of Port Douglas at Daintree.