Queensland’s acting premier has shut down speculation of a second crocodile sighting on North Stradbroke Island, also known as Minjerribah, revealing rangers had declared new footage taken on Friday as showing a dugong.
After reports of a “credible” crocodile sighting on Wednesday, 400km south of its usual habitat range, the island was again in a frenzy on Friday as residents swarmed to One Mile jetty to catch a glimpse of something moving through the water.
Among the dozens of people on shore, some were adamant it was the rogue salty – others dismissed the sighting as a load of crock.
Mitch Long arrived early at the jetty on Friday morning and was certain he had seen a crocodile in the water. “I’ve seen plenty of dugongs and this wasn’t one,” he told Guardian Australia.
“[I knew it was a croc because of] both the shape and the movement. [You could] clearly see the long shape of the head.”
Local Pam Bazzo uploaded images of the animal’s snout on Facebook with the caption “The Dunwich crocodile!!!” When asked by another user if it was really a croc, she replied: “Yes! Definitely a crocodile!!!”
However, after hours of debate between the island’s believers and non-believers, the acting premier, Steven Miles, declared that rangers had spoken.
“Rangers continue to investigate but have this afternoon confirmed video shows a much less dangerous dugong,” Miles wrote on Facebook on Friday.
Queensland’s department of environment said rangers were continuing to investigate and asked locals and residents to stay clear of beaches between Amity Point and Dunwich.
It was the third day of searches since a report from traditional owner Mark Jones that he had spotted a three-metre crocodile on Wednesday while leading a kayak tour with nine people.
“It just blew me away,” Jones told Guardian Australia. “We were all pretty shocked by it.”
The bistro manager of the Little Ship Club, Shannon Mitchell, said it was all anyone had been talking about all week on the island, with helicopters, drones and boats all searching for the reptile.
“It’s a small town so this is the most excitement we’ve had for a while,” she said.
“We will be serving crocodile on the menu as of next week. We’ll have some sausages and maybe some croc burgers or something like that.”
Not all the sightings now being referenced are from the past week, either.
Jones said his nephew and mates say they spotted a croc underneath the Wellington Point jetty last September, and another woman reported seeing the animal last week about 100 metres from the mudflats at Amity Point.
“I just shake my head at it, it’s crazy,” Jones said.
“It’s pretty concerning. Kids have been swimming in the water around Dunwich and One Mile.”