A PIECE of pork and a 5m aluminium trap may be the key to capturing a giant crocodile spotted in the Mary River, with rangers carrying out torch-light patrols overnight in a bid to find the beast.
Officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have been scouring the riverbanks near Beaver Rock since the 3.5m saltwater croc was reported by a fisherman on Monday.
It was photographed the next day by rangers, making it the first confirmed sighting this far south.
But Department of Environment and Heritage Protection wildlife operations manager Adam Northam said the reptile seemed shy after all the attention he had received.
"This croc has not displayed any aggressive behaviour towards boats or vehicles," he said.
"He's just minding his own business.
"We haven't seen it since Tuesday so he might have been startled and left the area."
The mangroves lining the Mary River would be classic croc country if they were further north but, despite unconfirmed reports, Mr Northam said it was the first time government officials had managed to get photographic evidence of crocodiles in the region.
"We carry out annual surveys and we've never had one recorded here before," Mr Northam said.
"The fact that there is now one confirmed is proof that they can, do and will turn up here."
He was hopeful the estuarine saltwater crocodile could be caught within days, after a tripwire trap was baited with meat to lure it in.
Although there would be teams of rangers patrolling the river both day and night in hope of spotting the snapper again, Mr Northam urged sightseers to stay away from the animal if they saw it.
"We don't want people to harass it, we want it to feel comfortable so he will come out and eat the bait," he said.
Mr Northam said the crocodile's appearance was unlikely to be related to the floods, although some local fishermen believed there might be a connection.
"We can't tell if it's a large female or a young male and it's hard to say how long it has been here but it's probably only been a short time," he said.
"They move up and down the coast and he probably was just passing through, lost his way a little and ended up here."