Police are investigating after a 5.2 metre crocodile was found shot dead near Rockhampton in central Queensland.
The carcass of the male croc was discovered in the Fitzroy River on Thursday and will be examined by police and wildlife officers, according to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection's (EHP) Michael Joyce.
"It is an offence under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to take an estuarine crocodile without authority and the maximum penalty for the unlawful killing of a crocodile is $28,383.75," Joyce said in a statement.
Rockampton Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Peachey warned that the person responsible for the fatal shooting potentially faces three years in prison for the offence, The Morning Bulletin reported.
EHP has warned that the death of the alpha male will create a power vacuum in the Fitzroy River's crocodile population as younger male crocs fight it out for the top spot.
"I cannot stress strongly enough the need for all river users to be aware of the risks and to be Crocwise," Joyce told The Morning Bulletin.
"We don't know at this stage how long it will take for the balance of the population to be restored so my urgent message to everyone in the Rockhampton area is to be extremely careful and to report all crocodile sightings as soon as possible."