Large Crocodile Attacks Woman in Lake Thought 'Safe' for Swimming

A large crocodile attacked a woman who was swimming in a lake in Western Australia, in an area of water that is usually thought safe for swimmers.

The 38-year-old woman was swimming in Lake Argyle, in Butler Cove, when the crocodile bit her leg, ABC Australia reported.

A huge crocodile, measuring up to eight feet, was seen lurking in the lake shortly afterward.

The woman was rushed to hospital for her injuries and is now in a stable condition, ABC Australia reported.

Freshwater crocodile
A stock photo shows a freshwater crocodile. This species is not usually aggressive unless provoked. Jaimie Tuchman/Getty Images

This was not the first time this particular crocodile had proved a nuisance to people.

In a statement, the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation said the reptile's behavior was "consistent with what staff would identify as a problem animal," ABC reported.

Just a few days previously, wildlife officials said a crocodile similar to the one that attacked the woman had moved close to a boat that had been patrolling the area earlier in the week.

Following the bite, wildlife officials took the decision to shoot the animal, the statement said, "in order to ensure public safety."

Freshwater crocodiles are native to Australia and around 35,000 are estimated to live in Lake Argyle, a popular tourist destination which people regularly use for swimming.

The attack occurred a week before a popular swimming event was due to be held in the lake. Western Australia Today reported that wildlife officials had been patrolling the lake for dangerous crocodiles ahead of the event.

Freshwater crocodiles are thought to be less aggressive than their saltwater relatives. Saltwater crocodiles are known for being more territorial, and can become aggressive when they feel threatened.

While saltwater crocodiles are more prone to attacking, their freshwater cousins usually leave humans alone unless directly provoked.

Crocodile attacks in Australia are rare but not unheard of. In 2017, data from the government estimated there was roughly one attack every year in a 33 year period, starting from 1985.

However, while not usually considered dangerous, the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation spokesperson said freshwater crocodiles "have the potential to inflict serious injuries."

The crocodiles of Lake Argyle are closely managed by the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation to make sure they do not display behavior that puts people at risk.

If a crocodile consistently shows behaviors that pose a danger to humans, wildlife officials will often take the decision to euthanize the animal.

Crocodiles can begin to display threatening behavior when humans begin feeding them, the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation spokesperson said.

This can make them begin seeking out humans, believing they are a source of food, leading to aggressive behavior.

The department urged people in the area not to approach the crocodiles, or interact with them.