04/02/2016 at 3:51 pm #1820David GeorgeParticipant
We’re about to cruise through the Kimberly one more time this coming season and are wondering how others who have been up there recently feel about carrying a firearm on board for the purpose of discouraging over aggressive crocodiles. We haven’t been across the top for 15 years, but on our last time in the Kimberly we were stalked by a croc while travelling in our dinghy. A warning shot from a .22 caused it to change its mind. We have been reading recent accounts of experiences with crocodiles and it seems they are becoming more and more aggressive. I gave up my firearms license to cruise overseas, but just wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to acquire one for this trip. Any thoughts from the group would be welcome.
06/02/2016 at 7:11 pm #1821RossKeymaster
We’ve definitely noticed an increase in the croc population over the 9 years we’ve been sailing the Kimberley. But that might be because we’re getting better at spotting them and know where to look. Parks and Wildlife Rangers did a croc survey last year, and reported a 300% population increase in some areas since culling was banned in the 1970’s. You will probably notice a difference in croc numbers after 15 years.
We’ve had a few close encounters with crocs over the years, but nothing to the point where I felt it required shooting a croc. A hasty retreat and a bigger dinghy is our first line of defence, along with plenty of common sense. We don’t own a gun, so the question never really came up anyway. We’ve had crocs follow us in our dinghy, and come up to the dinghy when we’re fishing at anchor. A whack with an oar, or a stab with a gidgy will frighten off the smaller ones. If it’s bigger than 2M, we move on.
We’ve never had a situation where a croc has come up to the dinghy and we haven’t spotted it coming without enough time to move away. But on the other hand, I know a very experienced couple who live in the Kimberley on their boat, who, in their words, had “the mother of all crocs” surface right next to their 3.6M tinny in a creek while they were flicking lures for barra. It wasn’t aggressive, and they very quickly started the outboard and moved on.
I know people who carry licensed guns on board, but when we’ve spoken about guns and crocs, the story usually is that they never have the gun in their dinghy when a croc has looked like it might be aggressive. Nobody that I’ve met carries a gun with them in their dinghy, and that’s generally when a croc might be a problem. I think the inconvenience and safety issues of taking a loaded gun on every dinghy trip, would far outweigh the very minimal chance of encountering an aggressive croc that could not otherwise be avoided, or moved away from.
It’s also highly unlikely that you will have the time, or thought processes that are fast and calm enough to find a stowed weapon on a dinghy, aim it and shoot a croc that has caught you by surprise and is aggressively attacking. More likely, panic will be the reaction, which is not a time to be using a gun.
A few other things to consider if you intend carrying a gun on board.
Defence against crocs will not be a reason the WA Police are likely to consider as a valid reason for owning, or carrying a firearm.
The law requires any firearm must be kept in a locked gun safe. This also applies on a boat. There would probably be some difficult questions to answer if Parks and Wildlife Rangers, Fisheries Inspectors or Police found a loaded firearm in your dinghy, or a firearm hidden on a cruising vessel without a gun safe.
I’m fairly sure it’s illegal to take firearms into some National Parks. The same may apply to a Marine Park. I’ll see if I can get an answer from Dept. of Parks and Wildlife on that one.
If a gun is licensed in WA, and you want to sail interstate, your WA license is invalid, and paperwork is required. I think some states may even seize your gun until you leave the state. The same would apply if you are sailing into WA from the NT or eastern states. IE. Another state’s gun license is invalid in WA without going through some police paperwork.
The time is quickly approaching where cruising yachts will require Visitors Permit to go ashore on large parts of the Kimberley coastal land and islands under native title. No firearms ashore will be a condition of those permits.
The fact is, you will no doubt come across crocs but, stupidity and lack of common sense aside, you will be very unlucky to be attacked by an aggressive croc in the Kimberley coast, and therefore I think it’s difficult to justify carrying a firearm on board to defend against such an attack. Carrying a firearm on a dinghy might even lead to a false sense of security, which could override common sense. I think the best form of defence against crocs, is knowing that given half a chance, they will eat you. Therefore, take every precaution you can to stay off their dining table. The General Information section of the KCCYC Anchorages has more on this subject and is worth a read.
All the best,
- This reply was modified 7 years, 7 months ago by Ross.
08/02/2016 at 2:23 pm #1823RossKeymaster
To clarify my point about firearms in Marine Parks, a Dept. of Parks and Wildlife officer sent me the below email.
A person may be in possession of a firearm however unless otherwise authorised it must be stowed and disassembled (bolt out etc). See attached Reg. 12, these regulations apply for all “CALM Lands” including marine and national parks. General firearm regulations for WA would also apply as any other public lands/waters, for example licensing and any restrictions on that licence.
(1) A person must not, without lawful authority, have in his or her possession on CALM land a firearm or ammunition unless that thing —
(a) is completely stowed within a vehicle or vessel; and
(b) in the case of a firearm, is unloaded and disassembled.
Penalty: a fine of $2 000.
CALM land means land, or land and waters, to which these regulations apply, and includes caves and parts of caves on or under that land;
See here for a map of the WA Marine Parks. https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/management/marine/marine-parks-and-reserves
21/03/2016 at 1:37 pm #1876David GeorgeParticipant
Thanks for the thoughtful replies Ross. We have given this matter considerable thought and decided not to proceed with the firearm licensing and purchase. As you noted, even if it gives you an extra sense of security in the Kimberly – from then on it becomes a problem. I did speak to the Police and learned that it is possible to carry a gun that isn’t in a lock up metal box on a boat or in a caravan / RV, if you can satisfy them that it can be properly concealed. Input from others with lots of Kimberly experience was what we were looking for and you have certainly provided that. Thanks again.
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