A man alleged to have shot dead an “iconic” crocodile in the Fitzroy River in central Queensland is facing fines of up to $28,000.
The 5.2-metre male crocodile was found floating in the river near Rockhampton in September with a gunshot wound to its head.
Police said an examination of the animal found several projectiles lodged in its body.
A 31-year-old man was charged on Thursday after police raided his property at Etna Creek, north of Rockhampton.
They allegedly uncovered two Marlin 336 lever action 30-30 calibre rifles, a quantity of ammunition and a number of electronic devices.
It is an offence under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to kill an estuarine crocodile without authority.
The penalty is greater for the killing of an “iconic” crocodile, which is classified as one greater than 5 metres long.
The man is due to appear in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court in January charged with one count of unlawfully taking a protected animal class 3.
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokesman Michael Joyce said the type offence was fairly uncommon.
“It is a very serious offence,” he said.
“It’s not something that occurs every day but we do see it.”
Mr Joyce said forensic officers tracked the alleged shooter by identifying the types of shrapnel found in the croc, as well as speaking to members of the public.
“[It took] a lot of very hard work by the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Environment to piece together the jigsaw puzzle to identify who was actually responsible for the take of the crocodile.”
At the time of the crocodile’s death there were concerns the loss of the alpha male would change the balance of power in the Fitzroy River, leading to aggressive behaviour in other crocodiles vying for the vacant position.
Mr Joyce said so far things were calm.
“To date it’s actually been quite quiet in that part of the river and we are continuing to monitor that,” he said.
“That’s not unexpected, sometimes these things can occur quite quickly and sometimes they can take a long period of time.”