10 Stingrays Killed Since Steve Irwin’s Death

There have apparently been a significant upsurge in stingrays killed by humans since “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was killed by one.

At least 10 stingrays have been killed since “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was fatally injured by one of the fish, an official said Tuesday, prompting a spokesman for the late TV star’s animal charity to urge people not take revenge on the animals.

Irwin died last week after a stingray barb pierced his chest as he recorded a show off the Great Barrier Reef. Stingray bodies since have been discovered on two beaches in Queensland state on Australia’s eastern coast. Two were discovered Tuesday with their tails lopped off, state fisheries department official Wayne Sumpton said. Sumpton said fishermen who inadvertently catch the diamond-shaped rays sometimes cut off their tails to avoid being stung, but the practice was uncommon. Stingrays often are caught in fishing nets by mistake and should be returned to the sea, Sumpton said.

Michael Hornby, the executive director of Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors conservation group, said he was concerned the rays were being hunted and killed in retaliation for Irwin’s death. “It may be some sort of retribution, or it may be fear from certain individuals, or it just may be yet another callous act toward wildlife,” he said. He said killing stingrays was “not what Steve was about.” “We are disgusted and disappointed that people would take this sort of action to hurt wildlife,” he said.

It could be coincidental, I suppose, but it likely isn’t. My guess is that it is fear, not revenge, motivating these killings. Despite it being a freak accident, I’m sure people figure that if a man who wrestles crocs for a living can be killed by a stingray, they must be incredibly dangerous.

My wife was reading an issue of PEOPLE yesterday while waiting for a doctor’s appointment and read a four page feature on Irwin’s death that, unfortunately, appears unavailable online. Apparently, Irwin was conscious when they pulled him out of the water and he died after instinctively yanking the stinger out of his chest. It’s not clear whether he could have been saved by medical professionals if he hadn’t done that.

UPDATE: My wife found the article online. The relevant passage:

As he was snorkeling in waters no more than 10 feet deep, he passed above a bull ray, which can grow up to seven feet in diameter. For some reason it stopped, then suddenly whipped its razor-sharp tail directly up toward Irwin and plunged the barb deep into his chest, piercing the heart.

The cameras kept rolling. Irwin had gotten himself out of many a predicament before, and there was hope he might escape again. Not this time. Just seconds after pulling the barb out of his heart himself, he was pulled back onboard Croc One, where the crew tried desperately to stop the bleeding. Long before a rescue helicopter could arrive, he died. “He pulled [the barb] out,” said Stainton. “And the next minute he’s gone. That was it.”

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    I wonder how the food fisheries factor works here?

    While not very popular with American, both Brits and Australians eat skate (and rays sold under that name). Some “scallops” on the US market seem to be actually skate or ray, too.

  2. Steven Plunk says:

    This is stupid. How many are killed on any given day? How many die naturally every day? 10? It means nothing. Pointless news wringing a bit more out of a human tragedy.

  3. Anderson says:

    I dunno, a Global War On Stingrays sounds like the only rational response to this tragic death.

    Of course, to really parallel events, we would have to kill a few token stingrays, and then set out to eradicate the electric eel. Reports have placed these eels in the same reefs as stingrays, and the eel obviously poses an imminent threat. Why do Dems want electric eels in our drinking water?