Crocodile sightings since last year have doubled around the Australian community of Townsville in North Queensland and it has local leaders believing a fatal attack is imminent.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection reported 58 crocodile sightings between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7, compared to 25 for the same period in 2016 when the total sightings for the year was 61, according to the Townsville Bulletin.
Robbie Katter, a member of parliament from Mount Isa, is a proponent of culling crocodiles in an effort to keep local citizens safe, saying "a lot of people" could be killed in the next three years.
"We're here saying, 'Hey, we can't swim on beaches,' our surf lifesaving clubs and rowing and skiing clubs are all just about closed down because no one can swim in the waters," he told the Townsville Bulletin.
"You would have to say there's a good chance someone will be killed. No one seems to give a stuff about our public safety."
Katter has introduced the Safer Waterways Bill 2017 that makes it mandatory for rogue crocodiles to be removed from Queensland's populated waterways.
Townsville Deputy Mayor Les Walker told the Townsville Bulletin appropriate measures are required to make the community safe.
"It could be trapping or culling," he said. "We have to take the appropriate action depending on the threat. I don't want people taking guns out and about willy nilly.
"I'd hate to think we're going to lose children on our river banks."
But conservationist Terri Irwin, the wife of the late Steve Irwin, aka "The Crocodile Hunter," challenged Katter's claims about the impact of crocodiles in the northern part of the state, saying there have been only nine crocodile-related deaths in the past 32 years.
"There's very little you can die of less in Queensland than crocodiles," she told Sky News, according to Huffington Post Australia. "In fact, in the same time period, more than 77 people were killed by horses."
Katter has called those figures "hopelessly inaccurate," adding that "when a person goes missing, why does he go missing?"
A spokesperson for the EHP, which is undergoing a three-year crocodile monitoring survey, told the Townsville Bulletin that an increase in sightings doesn't necessarily mean an increase in numbers.
"Crocodile sightings can increase when a number of sightings of the one animal occur and, more generally, when urban development encroaches more into crocodile habitat," the spokesperson said.
The State Parliament is expected to vote on the Safer Waterways Bill in November.
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