Crikey! Crocodile Hunter will be missed |

Crikey! Crocodile Hunter will be missed

AP Photo/Russell McPhedranIn this AP file photo, Australian Steve Irwin holds a nine-foot alligator in company with his American wife Terri at his "Australia Zoo" in Beerwah, Queensland, Australia. Irwin died Monday while filming for a TV show in the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

Although he flirted with death for a living, the reality that those risky acts with deadly animals finally caught up with Steve Irwin is hard to grasp.

It shouldn’t be, given the dangerous stunts he pulled on a regular basis. But it is.

In spite of the comments I’ve heard, and made, over the years about the seemingly inevitable fate of the Australian TV personality, he wasn’t really supposed to go out like that.

Or maybe he was. Maybe he would have preferred to die on the job in the wild rather than as an old man in a hospital bed, unable to manhandle the beasts he once specialized in grappling into submission.

As most probably know by now, Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter, died Monday while filming for a TV show on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

According to Associated Press reports, Irwin was stabbed in the chest by a stingray while snorkeling about three feet from the fish. Videotape captured him pulling out the poisonous barb moments before he died.

“It’s a very hard thing to watch, because you are actually witnessing somebody die, and it’s terrible,” Irwin’s manager John Stainton, who was present at the time of the accident and saw the video, told reporters.

Of all the people quoted in stories after his death, actor and friend Russell Crowe perhaps described Irwin most fittingly: “He was and remains the ultimate wildlife warrior,” he said.

Well put.

Sure, there are now a handful of wildlife experts on TV who earn ratings through precariously close encounters with deadly creatures ” ultimately offering viewers lessons about wildlife. But they are all products of The Crocodile Hunter, the original crazy guy who entertained the masses with his daredevilry, humor and good nature.

No one can replace the Crocodile Hunter.

I’ll never forget the difficulty of believing my eyes the many times I tuned in to see him risking life and limb for a quality close-up of some sort of poisonous species.

Half the entertainment value was in seeing Irwin’s eyes light up like a kid in a candy store upon spotting a slithery ” and most often deadly ” moving object. He’d pick it up by its tail to examine, exclaiming how beautiful it was while remaining cautious of a strike, which usually occurred. But it never posed a problem. Good ol’ Crocodile Hunter just shook it off.

Cobra poison in the eyes? No worries.

When thinking of the infamous Discovery Channel show featuring the energetic “wildlife warrior,” many memories come to mind.

First is the African cobra spitting in his face, which burned his eyes despite wearing sunglasses as his only armor.

Next would have to be the Komodo Dragon smacking his bare thigh with its tail, leaving a nearly bleeding purple welt that hurt to look at.

Then there was the time he faced the daunting task of capturing a wild, bucking kangaroo. After absorbing a few solid kicks, he achieved his goal by way of sheer determination and adroit animal-tackling ability.

And of course there were the many occasions that he tangled with alligators and crocodiles, among other dangerous reptiles and animals.

Steve Irwin, the beloved Crocodile Hunter, truly was the “ultimate wildlife warrior.”

I’ll miss him.

Sylas Wright is the sports editor at the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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