Man Spends 20 Hours Hiding in Tree From Crocodiles in Creek

A large male crocodile pictured at Darwin's Crocodile Farm. A man escaped to a tree where he stayed overnight to avoid the reptiles in Cairns, Queensland. REUTERS/David Gray/Files

A man who got lost in crocodile infested waters spent the night up a tree to avoid confrontation with the killer reptiles.

Brian Duncan, 61, was on an afternoon walk while crab potting near Cairns, north Queensland, Australia's ABC News reported.

He went searching for places for put the pots to lure crabs near Chinaman Creek, but got caught out when the tide came in quickly.

Knowing it was a crocodile area and rather than risk wading in the waters, he decided to take the safer option and climb a tree until the water subsided.

He was reported missing because, after his phone battery died, he was unable to contact his family.

"I thought 'well I'm not walking through knee-deep water, too many crocs around,' so I went up a tree and spent the night," he said.

"I found a comfy tree that leaned back on an angle… it was a big tree."

He later made his way into clearings in the mangrove forest, but a police and helicopter search failed to spot him. Authorities feared he had been eaten by a crocodile.

He was found just after midday Wednesday covered in mud, embarrassed but unharmed. He was reunited with his family after being missing for nearly 20 hours.

Cairns police Acting Senior Sergeant Gil Dyett said as well as the crocodile threat, he could have been bitten by a snake.

"He's fine, he's got a few sandfly bites but other than that he's fine and he's got a story to tell."

"But I think he'll be more distressed about the concern he's put his family through," Dyett said.

MPs in Queensland's parliament have lodged a private member's bill to cull crocodiles in the northern part of the state. However, scientists say a controlled cull is unlikely to curb attacks.

The number of crocodiles has increased in Queensland since the regional government gave them protected status in 1974.