October 28th 2008
Houdini croc visits Picnic Bay
At 7.30am this morning, the 3.5 metre estuarine crocodile, which has been visiting Magnetic Island beaches for over three weeks was spotted just off the beach at Picnic Bay. Magnetic Times was called and we were able to take the best photos yet of the croc we call Wighty Houdini.
The call came from Ms Carol Pemberton of Picnic Bay who reported that our W. Houdini was now just seven or eight metres off the beach at the bottom of Granite Street.
Mr Don Simpson of Picnic Bay took this shot of W. Houdini as it
swam down the beach from about 7 metres out.
With such excellent support from the community the EPA was quickly advised and by the time this reporter arrived a small party, including EPA Rangers, MI Police and locals, were gathered at the end of the famous heritage jetty watching the water intently for surfacing of W. Houdini.
It wasn't hard. Within a minute of arriving our croc rose to the surface perhaps 20 metres away towards Hawkings Point. Displaying the nonchalant bravado of a member of his particularly fearsome lineage W. Houdini was defying all attempts by the notoriously territorial seagulls of Picnic Bay who circled over him crying the gull equivalent of, "Bugger off!"
Don't mess with the Picnic gulls
The Island's EPA Rangers were as busy as they could be monitoring W. Houdini's every movement with their radio tracker which makes an intermittent sound perhaps not unlike a croc clearing its throat.
Magnetic's EPA Officers (right) Michael Johnson and Patrick Centurino keep watch with MI Police Constable Tony Parsons in attendance.
Island Officer in Charge, Patrick Centurino, said that the EPA would continue to track the restless reptile throughout the day and hoped that their croc catching crew would be able to follow up this afternoon and, if conditions were suitable, harpoon their quarry and complete the mission.
Is W. Houdini considering a Townsville visit?
Harpooning in this instance is unlike anything the Japanese whale scientists might employ in the southern oceans in their ongoing research to find out what each whale tastes like. Instead, the harpoon in designed to hook in just beneath the croc's tough hide. As the EPA's Wildlife Manager, Mike Devery told Magnetic Times, "The harpoon is not conventional. It has a short barb. When hit behind the neck the barb sticks. A rope is attached and the idea is to let the animal be played like a fish. They have big bursts of energy but then burn out." The croc crew then try to stay with it until it eventually tires. "Then you can work it gently up to the boat, get the sharp end taped up, then into the boat."
Weather conditions are apparently critical in the whole operation with any amount of chop on the water making the process a little harder.
After a very entertaining round-the-jetty swim-by this morning the cruising croc headed back towards Cockle Bay and out of sight.
While opinion varies hugely about the impact of the croc on the Island as a holiday destination, with some ignoring Wall Street and calling this a "Croc Crash", locals are clearly discussing a future that needs to factor in croc visits. This morning's watch at the jetty was, for those who attended, a very absorbing and not-to-be-missed experience.
With luck and favourable weather the EPA may get lucky this afternoon but given the wiley ways of W. Houdini, we suggest that no breaths be held - particularly under water.
Story & photos: George Hirst (& Don Simpson)
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