‘IT WAS BIG, BLACK AND UGLY’

MICHAEL BOLT: CROC EN­COUNTER AT FOUR MILE

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - SHANE NI­CHOLS

FIVE mem­bers of the Port Dou­glas Surf Life Sav­ing Club had a close call with a large crocodile near the stinger net buoys off Four Mile Beach on Satur­day as they went for their reg­u­lar 6:45 am pad­dle to Dick­son In­let.

Lawyer and club vice pres­i­dent Michael Bolt has re­ported the in­ci­dent to the Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil, in the lat­est round of a con­tro­versy over crocodile man­age­ment.

Mr Bolt has long been ar­gu­ing on be­half of the PDSLSC for Dou­glas to in­sti­tute a zone 2 croc man­age­ment scheme as ap­plies in Cairns, but he says the coun­cil is resistant to this even while can­vass­ing pub­lic opin­ion lately.

Mr Bolt said on see­ing the croc, which he thinks was more than four me­tres long, he had to re­turn to the beach im­me­di­ately to warn a lone swimmer.

“We were pad­dling out from the Surf club at Four Mile Beach when I saw some­thing un­usual just beyond the outer north­ern buoy for the stinger net. At first I thought it was two dol­phins about two me­tres apart,” Mr Bolt said.

“When we were about 40 me­tres away we could see it was a re­ally large croc by the dis­tance from its snout to the tail. The tail was just mas­sive.

“There were five of us on our rac­ing skis head­ing north to go around the point.

“It was head­ing south and to­wards the beach.

“We pad­dled slowly past it, keep­ing a close eye on it and giv­ing it a wide berth. It seemed to be keep­ing an eye on us and didn’t seem to be in a hurry. After we had gone past the croc it turned its head to follow our progress, then with a pow­er­ful swoosh with its tail it just dis­ap­peared un­der the wa­ter. We held our breath to see where it would sur­face but we didn’t see it again.

“But dur­ing this pe­riod of a cou­ple of min­utes some­one on the shore had de­cided to go into the wa­ter for a swim. I saw that they were out about chest deep, about 40 me­tres from shore and about 50 me­tres from where we had last seen the crocodile.

“I thought how hazardous was this! I turned my ski around and sprinted to warn the swimmer. She was a girl, 16 or 17, of slim build. She made a hasty exit from the wa­ter. If we had not been there to in­ter­vene, the girl and the croc would have been on a col­li­sion course and could well have had an en­counter.

“Given the size of the croc I know who would have come out sec­ond best. One of our crew opted out of a pad­dle and was on hand to warn other swim­mers of the sight­ing. So then, as there was no one else in the wa­ter the rest of us headed off on our train­ing pad­dle.

“When we came back 50 min­utes later there was still no one in the wa­ter. We headed south for a kilo­me­tre to see if there was any sign of the croc. On our re­turn to to­wards the beach we no­ticed there was a guy in the wa­ter, and he was swimming out to one of the cans.

“This was about 7:45 am. The life­guards don’t come on duty un­til 9 am, so at that time there was no one there to watch over him. We es­corted this man to the shore.”

Mr Bolt be­lieves the croc had come from Dick­son In­let, and he says a club mem­ber has re­ported that a new, very large crocodile – dubbed Clive – has taken up res­i­dence in Sand­fly Creek, op­po­site the boat ramp.

“With this sight­ing we have no­ti­fied the CrocWatch hot line, we’ve no­ti­fied Life­guard Ser­vices and a sign has gone up out­side the pa­trol hut and it will be there for seven days,” Mr Bolt said.

“The thing is, a lot of peo­ple con­gre- gate around the pa­trol hut and they will see the warn­ing sign. It is not a good look for the tourism in­dus­try. A lot of peo­ple swim at Four Mile Beach. They should be able to swim know­ing that it is safe to swim in our ocean.

“The size and num­bers of croc­o­diles in our re­gion is a se­ri­ous con­cern to us at the surf club. We’re wor­ried this crocodile will come back, and the greater con­cern we have is that the larger croc­o­diles in our re­gion will start mov­ing about at this time of year and be­come a threat to swim­mers.”

The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion said it sent of­fi­cers to in­ves­ti­gate the sight­ing. “A site as­sess­ment this morn­ing found no fur­ther ev­i­dence of the crocodile,” a spokes­woman said.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

A warn­ing sign has gone up at Four Mile Beach

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