A Central Queensland farmhand has copped a hefty fine for shooting dead an ‘iconic’ 5.2 metre crocodile.
Luke Stephen Orchard, 31, pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking a class three protected animal when he appeared in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on Friday.
He was facing a maximum fine of up to $28,383.75.
Orchard was fined $10,000 but had no conviction recorded against him by magistrate Jeff Clarke.
The giant reptile was found in the Fitzroy River, near Rockhampton, with multiple bullet wounds in its head last September.
Police prosecutor Jess King said Orchard confessed to shooting the 5.26 metre male crocodile twice, the Morning Bulletin reported.
‘I shot the crocodile,’ Orchard said in his interview with police.
‘It was taking calves and I was getting sick of it, so I got rid of it.’
Experts determined the crocodile could have survived World War I and was aged 80-100 years old.
Protected under the Nature Conservation Act since 1992, it is illegal in Queensland to kill estuarine crocodiles.
The court was told Orchard was checking on cattle at the Etna Creek property while on a quad bike and spotted the crocodile resting on the bank.
The court was told Orchard shot at it once on the first occasion and watched as the beast rolled into the water, thinking he had killed it.
However, when he returned hours later, the crocodile was back with its head resting on the bank.
Orchard used a more high-powered bullet and shot the crocodile again in the head between the eyes.
Earlier this year, Koorana Saltwater Crocodile Farm owner John Lever said the killing of the crocodile created more problems than it solved.
‘The crocodile was probably the alpha-male in the area and because it is now dead, there will be a scramble among the other males to take his place,’ Mr Lever said.
‘It will take two or three years to settle down and the crocs will be more dangerous during this time because they will be fighting for territory, females and food.’