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Frequently asked questions
For more information about the management of crocodiles, read the FAQs below.
What does it mean when a crocodile is ‘declared’ or ‘targeted for removal’?
A sighting report may result in an animal being declared as a problem crocodile under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 based on criteria like its location, size and/or behaviour. Declared problem crocodiles are targeted for removal from the wild.
Once a crocodile has been targeted for removal, wildlife officers will first attempt to capture the animal either indirectly (trapping) or directly (hand capture or snaring). If neither of these options are available, or fail to succeed after several attempts, humane euthanasia of the animal may be considered as a last resort.
Live crocodiles that are removed from the wild are taken to licensed zoos and farms. When it is appropriate to do so, this is done in consultation with the local Traditional Custodians.
How are crocodiles caught?
There are two main ways that wildlife officers catch problem crocodiles, depending on the circumstances—direct and indirect capture.
Direct capture is often used in situations where there is an immediate need for the crocodile to be removed (for example, a crocodile is stuck in a stinger net).
For smaller animals, wildlife officers can use a snare or even capture them by hand while tools such as ropes can be used to restrain larger animals.
Indirect capture involves trapping a crocodile using either a floating trap or a gate trap.
A floating trap consists of an aluminium cage with two floats down its length. A sliding gate is held open with a pin that is connected to a bait at the back of the trap by a line. If the crocodile takes the bait, it pulls the line attached to the pin, which in turn pulls the pin out. This causes the gate to slide shut.
A gate trap consists of a mesh bag with a metal sliding gate at the front. It can be set far into mangroves or on a bank. A gate trap is more difficult to set than a floating trap, but it can be camouflaged into the surroundings if crocodiles are wary of floating traps in their territory. The gate mechanism is the same as is used in the floating trap.
It is an offence under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to interfere or tamper with a trap. In recent years, the department has successfully prosecuted a number of people for interfering with traps.
Some sightings result in the department taking ‘no further action’—what does that mean?
‘No further action’ might sound like nothing has been done, but it actually means the department has investigated a sighting in one or more ways and assessed the situation as not posing an imminent threat to people.
This can happen when a report:
- is of an animal that doesn't fulfil the criteria to be targeted for removal (i.e. not a threat to people)
- is from some time ago
- is a false report, or what was reported is determined to be an animal or object other than a crocodile
- is of a freshwater crocodile
- is of a crocodile in a location where there is very low chance of human interaction and its behaviour is not aggressive
- appears to be a one-off sighting of a crocodile moving through the area on its way somewhere else.
The department will always continue to monitor areas where there have been sightings, so there may still be a response if the animal becomes a problem. That’s why you are encouraged to keep reporting crocodiles, even if you’ve reported them before. An isolated sighting may not mean much, but several will give a much better idea of a crocodile's habits and behaviour.
Why don’t you release captured crocodiles back into the wild?
Releasing a crocodile after capture doesn't happen very often, and for good reason.
If a problem crocodile is trapped and released somewhere away from people, studies have shown they just travel home—even if it's hundreds of kilometres away!
Once a crocodile has been trapped, they become ‘trap shy’ and are extremely unlikely to go in a trap again. If a small crocodile accidentally becomes trapped instead of the targeted animal, it will become harder to remove in the future, as it is ‘trap shy’ and will stay away from any trap.
On the rare occasion when a trapped crocodile is released, it is with careful consideration of the consequences. Many of the crocodiles released have become lost after flooding and wildlife officers have helped return them home.
Why and when does the department consider euthanasia as an option?
Unfortunately, sometimes problem crocodiles have to be humanely euthanised.
The decision to euthanise a crocodile is not made lightly, and takes into account a number of factors:
- Attempts to capture the crocodile may have failed and it poses an imminent danger to people.
- The crocodile is in a remote location where transport to a zoo or farm is not feasible, as stress from a long or difficult journey out of water can kill a crocodile.
- Where people have interfered with traps to prevent the capture of a problem crocodile, animals that would otherwise have been taken to a farm or zoo have also been euthanised.
Euthanasia is always a last resort, and authorised departmental officers ensure it’s done humanely.
Who are the department’s crocodile management team?
The crocodile management team is a highly skilled group of wildlife officers working out of bases in Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton. They are responsible for responding to incidents quickly and effectively, deliver the Be Crocwise public safety program and undertake field research across the whole of northern Queensland, including the Torres Strait.
The best practice procedures and equipment used by the team have been developed in consultation with industry experts to maximise effectiveness and safety. Their work takes staff and animal health and wellbeing into account and conforms with the Code of practice for the humane treatment of wild and farmed crocodiles.