Authorities shoot crocodile after woman bitten in Lake Argyle in far northern Western Australia

A woman is recovering in a Broome hospital after she was bitten by a crocodile in the east Kimberley.

Wildlife authorities have since shot the reptile in Lake Argyle, near Kununurra.

The woman was swimming in the lake when she was bitten on the leg by what was described as a “large” freshwater crocodile, at Butler Cove on Monday. 

A crocodile measuring about 2.5m was seen shortly afterwards.

The 38-year old was taken to Kununurra hospital but was then taken to Broome Regional Hospital due to the extent of her injuries.

A WA Country Health spokesperson said her condition was “stable”.

freshwater croc in lake
Freshwater crocodiles are common in Lake Argyle and usually do no harm to people.(ABC Kimberley: Ted O’Connor)

‘Not usually dangerous’

The Department of Biodiversity and Conservation in a statement said staff saw a freshwater crocodile matching the size of the animal that attacked the woman approach and interact with their vessel when patrolled Butler Cove on Tuesday.

“In order to ensure public safety … and with consideration to large community events such as the annual Lake Argyle swim taking place this weekend, staff destroyed the animal.”

Lake Argyle and downstream Lake Kununurra are declared crocodile management zones, which means the department has to take steps to mitigate public risk, even if it means euthanising one of the protected species.

Freshwater “Johnston” crocodiles are not known to be aggressive unless provoked, unlike estuarine crocodiles.

“While not usually considered dangerous animals they have the potential to inflict serious injuries,” a department spokesperson said.

People have been bitten, usually in shallow waters, after disturbing the reptiles, which are endemic to northern Australia.

An estimated 35,000 Johnston crocodiles live in man-made Lake Argyle and feed on fish. 

Image of boats and pontoons floating in the waters of Lake Argyle in Western Australia
Lake Argyle is a popular tourist attraction in WA.(ABC Kimberley: Sam Tomlin )

The bitten woman was part of a group which had hired a 5m boat to explore the lake.

The boat hire company states on its website that it is safe to swim in the lake.

“[We] swim in deeper parts of Lake Argyle where they frequent less.”

The last unprovoked attack in Lake Argyle occurred in 2009 when a man was swimming in water 8m deep near an area called Crocodile Bay for its large population of nesting reptiles.

The 52-year-old man had puncture wounds to his chest, shoulder and arm, and recovered.

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