Crocodile Attacks

The Dangerous Crocodiles of Northern Australia

Saltwater crocodiles are apex predators that have inhabited Australia’s tropical waters for millions of years. Growing over 20 feet long and weighing up to 2,000 pounds, they are the largest reptiles on earth. While attacks are rare, about two people per year are killed by crocodiles in Australia. Most attacks occur in remote regions of northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

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Where Crocodile Attacks Occur

The majority of attacks occur in the coastal mangroves and rivers in the far north of Queensland and Northern Territory. Key areas include:

  • The Daintree River region north of Cairns, Queensland
  • Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory
  • Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory
  • Kimberley region of Western Australia

Saltwater crocodiles can also be found around some offshore islands, and occasionally venture out to sea.

Recent Attacks

Some notable recent crocodile attacks in Australia:

  • February 2023 – A 57-year-old man was attacked while crab hunting in waist-deep water near Lizard Island, suffering severe leg injuries.
  • January 2023 – A 35-year-old fisherman was killed after being grabbed from his dinghy in a remote creek in Arnhem Land.
  • September 2022 – A 60-year-old woman suffered arm and chest injuries when a crocodile lunged from a creek while she was walking her dog in Cairns.
  • August 2022 – A 29-year-old wildlife ranger was killed while swimming during a camping trip in East Arnhem Land.
  • February 2021 – The first record of two crocodiles hunting and consuming a human. Mr Heard, a keen fisherman was attacked and killed by a male crocodile almost five metres long – more than double that of his dinghy and almost as wide. The predator and a two-metre female crocodile were both euthanased and found to contain human remains with DNA tests confirming the remains of Mr Heard.

Crocodile Attack Statistics

  • Since 1985, there have been over 40 crocodile attacks in Queensland, with 12 fatalities
  • Approximately two fatal attacks occur per year in Australia
  • Northern Territory has had 32 attacks and 16 deaths since 1971
  • Males account for about 80% of all victims
  • Most victims are rural residents and tourists engaged in activities like swimming, wading, and fishing

Surviving a Crocodile Attack

People who have survived crocodile attacks describe the lightning fast strike, crushing bite, and efforts to fight back. Here are some key stories:

  • In 2019, ranger Craig Dickmann was bitten on the thigh while fishing on a remote beach in Cape York. He jammed his thumb into the crocodile’s eye until it let go.
  • In 2022, Aaron Evans fought off a 10 foot crocodile after it bit his arm at Lawn Hill Gorge. He suffered deep cuts to his hands while prying open its jaws.
  • Mick Curwen was attacked while snorkeling off Lizard Island in 2015. He felt the crocodile’s teeth pierce his arm like an “electric shock.”

While these victims recovered, they bear both the physical and emotional scars.

Crocodile Behavior and Prevention Tips

Crocodiles are ambush predators that wait patiently for prey. Key tips for staying safe include:

  • Avoid swimming in rivers, estuaries and mangroves
  • Stay at least 50 meters back from river and sea edges
  • Never dangle arms or legs over boats
  • Don’t camp near water or leave food scraps around
  • Be extra vigilant at dawn and dusk
  • Never provoke or feed crocodiles

Interesting Crocodile Facts

  • Large crocodiles can jump almost their entire body length out of water
  • They can live over 70 years in the wild
  • Mothers protect hatchling crocodiles for their first year of life
  • Crocodiles can go months without eating
  • Their bite force is over 3,000 psi, the strongest of any animal

Northern Australia’s saltwater crocodiles demand caution and respect. With some knowledge and common sense, the remote rivers and coasts can be enjoyed safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the largest crocodile ever captured in Australia?

The largest crocodile ever captured in Australia was a massive saltwater crocodile measuring 20.3 feet long and weighing 2,370 pounds. It was caught in the Katherine River in the Northern Territory in 1987.

What is the bite force of a saltwater crocodile?

Saltwater crocodiles have the strongest bite force ever measured of any animal. Large adults can bite down with 3,700 pounds per square inch, over 10 times the force of a lion. This allows them to crush turtle shells and buffalo skulls.

How fast can a saltwater crocodile swim?

When saltwater crocodiles swim fast in short bursts they can reach speeds over 10 miles per hour. This allows them to explode out of the water to catch prey. They can also swim steadily at around 5 mph.

How far can a saltwater crocodile jump?

Large saltwater crocodiles can jump their entire body length out of the water. This means big adults can leap over 5 meters into the air when ambushing prey.

Do crocodiles cry tears?

Yes, crocodiles do produce tears. But unlike human tears in response to emotions, crocodile tears are for lubricating their eyes. Saltwater crocodiles also secrete excess salt from special glands near their eyes, so their tears help rid the body of excess sodium.

What senses do crocodiles use to hunt?

Crocodiles rely heavily on their excellent eyesight both above and below water to locate prey. But they also use other senses once prey is detected. Special pores on their snout called pressure receptors allow them to sense even subtle movements and vibrations in water.

Do crocodiles ever attack sharks?

There are rare reports of large crocodiles attacking and eating sharks up to 5 feet long. Most often, sharks and crocodiles avoid each other. But crocodiles will eat smaller sharks that swim into their territory looking for an easy meal.