for National Geographic News
In the wake of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin's death by stingray, some fans may be carrying out revenge attacks against the fish.
As many as ten stingrays have been found dead, with their tails cut off, along the southern coast of Australia's Queensland state (map of Australia).
Irwin was killed at a reef off Queensland on September 4, when a stingray he was following whipped around and pierced the TV personality's heart with poison spines along its tail.
(Related video: about stingrays and their poisonous potential.)
This week two maimed stingrays were found at Deception Bay, near the state capital of Brisbane. Another eight of the usually docile animals were found at Dundowran Beach.
Queensland's Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries is investigating the incidents. If the perpetrators are found, they could be prosecuted under the state's animal-cruelty laws.
A biologist with the department, Wayne Sumpton, was called in to inspect the Deception Bay stingrays but could not say what prompted the attacks.
"We do not know if these incidents are motivated by Steve Irwin's death," Sumpton said. "At the moment, that is just speculation.
"We do find dead stingrays with their tails cut off from time to time," he added. "People usually do it if they are worried about getting stung by a stingray. Or they just do it maliciously, but it is pretty rare."
Fishers sometimes cut off stingrays' tails to keep from getting stung when the unwanted animals end up on hooks, Sumpton says. But such incidents are not common, he saysfishers usually cut their lines to allow the venomous rays to swim away.
"Steve Would Be Disgusted"
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