A SMALL crocodile found dead at a popular Katherine swimming hole is believed to have died of natural causes.
Parks and Wildlife Commission officers investigated and removed the smelly carcass yesterday after speculation over the weekend the freshwater crocodile had been deliberately killed.
Parks community engagement officer Clare Pearce said it was difficult to tell exactly why the crocodile had died because of the advanced state of decomposition.
“In these sorts of cases we would usually blame another crocodile, or perhaps a cane toad,” Ms Pearce said.
“I tend to think it was something like a cane toad,” she said.
The discovery of the small crocodile was posted on social media site Facebook on Saturday and many people feared it had been deliberately killed.
But Ms Pearce said it was not unusual for small crocodiles to perish.
“It’s just that they don’t all die in places where there are lots of people,” she said, warning that many crocodiles of both species also enjoyed the “lowie”.
“We have a trap not far from there as there has been a saltie seen cruising around in that area although not for a little while.”
The dead crocodile created a terrific stench in the popular picnicking area until it was removed by parks officers on Monday morning.
Two campers told Katherine Times that people at the reserve on the weekend had tried to layer wood and leaves over the carcass in order to deaden the smell.
The campers, who did not want to be identified, said most people they had spoken to about the dead crocodile had feared it was deliberately killed.
“From what we hear about freshies they wouldn’t harm anyone so it would be a bit sad if that was true,” one of the visitors said.
“We have been walking along the river all weekend and haven’t seen any crocodiles, and we have been looking.”
Fines of about $77,000, including maximum prison sentences of five years, are available to authorities who suspect people have killed a protected crocodile.