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Crocs of the Mary

The crowd gathered to see the big saltwater croc that was hunted down and killed in 1964 in the Mary River.
The crowd gathered to see the big saltwater croc that was hunted down and killed in 1964 in the Mary River. Contributed

THE chase for the Mary River crocodile has barely caused a ripple in the ranks of the professional fishermen that farm the upper reaches of the river each and every day.

But while they are not expressing any concerns about their safety, they aren't complaining that Parks and Wildlife officers are trying to trap the croc and relocate it elsewhere.

Adrian Nowitzke is a fourth-generation Mary River fisherman and he said sightings of crocs in the river came along every 10 years or so.

"When we were kids we'd set out traps and lines with the hope of catching a crocodile but we weren't Steve Irwin and we never came close," he said.

"A few years ago I actually ran over a big one in the river near Mudlow Creek but other than that I haven't seen any and I've been putting nets in the river all my life.

"While I say I haven't seen any others, I have seen their prints in the mud on the banks and I'd rather have any big ones taken elsewhere than left to get bigger. If they stay here someone will eventually get hurt."

The recent sighting has brought to life all the croc stories the Mary has to offer.

Those reflect that Yankee Jack's Creek has long been known to have a resident croc, fishermen have pulled up small baby crocs in their crab pots for more than 100 years, Stewart Island residents lost a number of dogs to crocs some years ago and in 1999, a fisherman actually had one estimated at more than 3m tangled in his net for 15 minutes before it thrashed its way free.

That fisherman was Garry Whittaker and he was keen to recall his crocodile experience when he pulled into the Beaver Rock boat ramp yesterday.

"I had the net set across from the river near the meatworks when it exploded and started twisting madly," he said.

"The croc had a big barramundi in its mouth and was thrashing around rolling over and over making the net almost a single line.

"The guys on the wharf saw what was happening and yelled out and asked if I was all right.

"I wasn't too keen to pull the net aboard and I was far from upset when he smashed its way out of it."

Like Adrian Nowitzke, he was also supportive that the latest croc would be taken away, although he didn't have any fear about it being in his backyard.

"I have been a little more careful standing in the water at the boat ramp since I heard about it and probably might refrain from taking a dip on a hot day until this one disappears," Garry said.

Topics:  animals, crocodile, environment, fisherman, mary river


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