A massive saltwater crocodile — said to be one of the biggest ever seen in Queensland — has been shot dead in Rockhampton.
Police and state environmental officers are investigating after the 5.2m male reptile was found with a bullet in its head in the Fitzroy River on Thursday.
The monster crocodile was taken to the nearby Koorana Crocodile Farm, where it will be buried once a necropsy is carried out.
Farm owner John Leaver said a 5m-long crocodile had not been caught in Queensland for 20 to 30 years.
‘‘There may have been some others shot in the wild that we don’t know about, but from my recollection, over the past three decades this would be the largest,’’ he said.
Mr Leaver, who ran a crocodile removal service across the state for 20 years, said the largest one he ever caught was 4.95m in the late 1980s.
‘‘We caught that one up near Airlie Beach,’’ he said.
Mr Leaver said it was not unusual for a crocodile of that size to be found so far south.
The farmer said Rockhampton locals used to shoot crocodiles ‘‘equal to that size’’ in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, before it was illegal.
It is believed the 5.2m reptile had been dead for a few days before a member of the public spotted it floating and notified environmental officers.
Mr Leaver said the gunshot had caused a large hole in the top of the crocodile’s skull, suggesting the bullet came from a ‘‘fairly large calibre rifle’’.
‘‘I would say that someone felt very threatened,’’ he said when asked why he thought someone shot it.
Cassius, a male caught in the Northern Territory three decades ago, is recognised as the world’s largest crocodile in captivity.
The aquatic reptile measures 5.48m and lives at a farm on Green Island in far north Queensland.
A 6.16m Philippine crocodile called Lolong previously held the record before it died in 2013.