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Croc expert raises concerns over Douglas Shire's unusual 'hazing' plan

A crocodile researcher says rubber bullets aren’t a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to managing the reptiles.

A Northern Territory researcher says an aggressive form of crocodile management proposed by a far north Queensland council should be carefully considered before it is more widely adopted.

Douglas Shire mayor Julia Leu says she would like council workers to be trained to ‘haze’ problem crocodiles with rubber bullets in key areas where tourists and locals commonly frequent.

Hazing is a term that refers to a variety of methods used to deter large or dangerous animals from specific places.

In the case of crocodiles, it can mean making abrupt noises, driving boats close to the animal at relatively high speeds, or in some instances shooting rubber bullets at, or near, the crocodile.

Charles Darwin University’s Dr Hamish Campbell says hazing can create new problems for communities trying to manage the large reptiles.

“Hazing has been used on crocodiles in the past,” Dr Campbell says.

“A good example of hazing is the use of pepper spray in the United States with bears.

“It stops the animal associating the place with food or as a good place to hang out.

“Certainly in the past when crocodiles have hung around boat ramps or been harassing fishermen on boats people have hazed crocodiles hazing has been adopted.

“The crocodile then associates that place with a bad experience and it knows to leave.”

But Dr Campbell says hazing should only be adopted under the right circumstances.

"What sort of level of hazing would you define as effective? Do you just annoy it with a boat, or do you shoot it with rubber bullets which is much more invasive?"

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) says it will review Douglas Shire Council's hazing proposal.

"EHP is preparing a report for the Government on the findings of its face-to-face consultation and [recent] online survey," the spokesperson says.

"An assessment of Douglas Shire Council's suggestion about hazing will be included in that report."

The Queensland Government will consider the report before deciding what new arrangements to put in place for crocodile management in Queensland.

"The State Government has committed almost $6 million to crocodile management in Queensland and pledged to base its practices on the best available scientific information."

Dr Campbell welcomes the funding announcement.

"I've been calling for a long time for a proper scientific survey into Queensland's crocodile population," he says.

"You can see in the Northern Territory how effective it has been and how that scientific data informs management. You can make much better decisions and understand the ramifications much better.

"Is all the good crocodile habitat now saturated with crocodiles?

"Maybe what you're seeing is more subordinate male crocodiles pushed out of those systems and having to travel further afield to find good habitat. That could be happening [in Queensland]."

Research has revealed crocodiles in the Northern Territory are getting bigger, Dr Campbell says.

"The data from the Northern Territory says that the biomass - the size of crocodiles is increasing," he says. "You can kind of expect that given that they were hunted to the point of extinction from the early 70s."


Story by our content partners at Northern Beaches News