These Little-Known Facts About Steve Irwin’s Life Reveal An Even Wilder Side To The Crocodile Hunter

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Steve Irwin was an Australian icon, there’s no doubt about that. His interactions with dangerous wildlife changed the way the world thought about a variety of creatures, ultimately earning him the nickname of the Crocodile Hunter. But behind the scenes, he and his famous family were more complex than they appeared – and arguably even madder than their on-screen personas.

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40. Terri Irwin thought people wanted to see Steve get hurt

Steve’s wife Terri had an idea about why The Crocodile Hunter shows were so popular. In 2001 she told Scientific American magazine, “[Audiences] tune in because they want to see this guy die or get badly hurt.” But, she added, “Instead, they get a message about wildlife. And they get [to] see a guy who says, ‘Isn’t this rattlesnake beautiful?’ Who else says that?”

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39. Bindi is named after two animals

Bindi Sue Irwin, the daughter of the Irwin family, came into the world in July 1998. Her parents decided to name her after two of their favorite animals – Bindi, after a female crocodile kept at their zoo, and Sue, after the family pup Sui. Steve also once said that her name means “young girl” in the Nyungar language.

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38. Terri thought meeting Steve was “a fluke”

On a 2020 episode of Crikey! It’s the Irwins, Terri remembered how she met Steve. She said, “It was such a fluke. I mean visiting Australia… driving past what was then the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, and just happening to go in. And on that day Steve happened to be doing the croc demonstration… I really wanted to get to know him.” The rest is history.

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37. Steve never carried antivenom

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Rather shockingly, considering what his job entailed, Steve didn’t carry antivenom with him. In 1998 he told Reptiles magazine, “I take great pride in telling you, the world… everyone, I don’t get envenomated. I don’t carry [antivenom], never have, never will.” Instead, he said, “Karma exudes through my fingertips into the animal and they feel a lot more comfortable, and I don’t get bitten.”

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36. Steve’s mother died in a car crash

The Irwin family had experienced tragedy before Steve’s death, too. In February 2000 the family matriarch Lyn was killed in a car accident, devastating her family. On the official Crocodile Hunter website there’s still a tribute written from Steve to her. It reads in part, “You are the most beautiful, loving, nurturing, and caring person to have ever blessed this world.”

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35. Steve wasn’t a vegetarian

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Surprisingly, Steve was all for the eating of animals. In 2001 he told Scientific American magazine, “I went through a big stage of my life where I thought, you know, maybe it would be better to be a vegetarian, so I researched it. In no uncertain terms did I research it.” He ultimately concluded it would be better if he ate meat.

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34. An Irwin documentary helped save a child

In 2001 Terri told Scientific American magazine that she’d once gotten mail from a woman who credited an Irwin documentary with helping to save her son from a snakebite. Terri explained, “They put a pressure bandage on, he went to hospital, and he lived to see another day. She said if she hadn’t seen our show, her little boy probably would have died.”

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33. Steve was slammed for holding his baby near a crocodile

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Babies and crocodiles shouldn’t mix, as Steve found out in 2004. That year, some footage of him holding his baby son as he fed a crocodile was circulated around the media – and there was utter outrage. Politicians and audiences alike condemned him. And another crocodile farmer named Keith Cook told the Courier-Mail newspaper, “I think he’s a bloody idiot.”

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32. There’s a (dangerous) road bearing Steve’s name

After Steve’s untimely passing, a roadway was named after him in his small Australian hometown of Beerwah. It’s a pretty area with a wonderful view of the stunning Glass House Mountains. However, the route is noted for being quite dangerous – just like Steve’s life was. There have been a vast amount of traffic-related incidents on it.

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31. The Irwins didn’t wear wedding rings

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Steve and Terri Irwin were clearly very happy together, but they never seemed to don their wedding rings. But there was a very simple reason for that – they were worried it would be dangerous if they did. If one of the rings got caught on something – or if an animal managed to eat one – it could have been disastrous.

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30. Steve approved of tiger shows

Showmen Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn had a tiger show in Las Vegas until 2003. That year, a tiger gripped Roy by the neck and mutilated him. In 2004 Larry King asked Steve about this incident and about tiger shows in general. Steve said he supported them because, “I believe that the time has come where if we don’t get animals into people’s hearts, they’re going to go extinct.”

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29. Steve’s father turned down a state funeral for him

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After Steve’s tragic death, the Australian government floated the idea of giving him a state funeral. But Bob Irwin, his dad, said it wasn’t what his son would have wanted. Speaking to the media from the Australia Zoo, Bob said, “He was just an ordinary bloke, and he wants to be remembered as an ordinary bloke.”

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28. Steve was once bitten by a snake live on TV

Back in 1991 Steve went on an Australian TV show to talk about the difference between venomous snakes and non-venomous ones. Luckily, he happened to be unwrapping one of the latter kind from round his neck when it suddenly bit him. Steve remained calm and taught everyone proper snakebite procedure.

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27. Steve thought Australians found him embarrassing

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Steve mused on his image to ABC TV back in 2003. He said the world was “looking at me as this very popular, wildlife warrior Australian bloke.” But, he went on, “Back here in my own country, some people find me a little bit embarrassing… You know, is it a cultural cringe? Is it they actually see a little bit of themselves when they see me and they find that a little embarrassing?”

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26. Steve sustained many injuries from animals

Over the course of his career Steve faced a lot of dangerous animals – cassowaries, black mambas; all sorts of things you wouldn’t want to go near. Naturally, he picked up a lot of scars. In 2004 he told Larry King, “I’ve got bites all over me. I really have, from everything, from non-venomous snakes to big cats to, of course, a lot of croc bites. But nothing serious. I’m a professional.”

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25. Steve always thought he would die young

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In 2018 Terri appeared on ABC’s Anh’s Brush With Fame and revealed something about Steve. She said, “You know he never thought he would have a long life. He just always kind of had this sense that his life would be cut short. I remember him saying to me, ‘I don’t think I am going to film anymore. I think I am just going to spend time with my kids.’”

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24. Steve once saved his friend from a crocodile

Steve’s friend Wes Mannion owes him his life. In 2002 Wes explained all to Good Weekend magazine. In his words, “We took our eyes off Graham [the crocodile] for a bit too long, and he came up behind me in waist-deep water and just drilled me into the fence… He was about to grab me on the head when Steve leapt on his tail and hung on.” Wes was left scarred, but alive.

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23. Steve joked that his dog was his girlfriend

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In a 2006 interview with Barbara Walters, her first since Steve’s sudden death, Terri discussed her first meeting with her future husband. She got talking to him, and there was clear interest, but then he told her he had a girlfriend. She was “a little bit devastated,” of course – but then Steve introduced her to his pet dog.

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22. It still saddens Bindi when she sees footage of Steve

Bindi was only eight when her father died, so she missed out on a lot of things with him. Of course, that deeply saddens her. In 2019 she told Stellar magazine that once she was, “playing the video where we petition against harvesting of crocodile eggs. There’s old footage of dad with the crocodiles and, even though I’ve seen the video maybe 50 times, that day I started crying.”

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21. Several animal species are named after Steve

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Many famous people have a species of animal named after them – but Steve has several. First, there’s the Elseya irwini, a kind of turtle that Steve himself discovered. There’s the Trypanosoma irwini, a microscopic parasite. And there’s the land snail Crikey steveirwini, which not only bears Steve’s name but also his catchphrase.

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20. Steve didn’t want to be a dad at first

Like many people, Steve wasn’t sure if he wanted fatherhood before it happened to him. In 2003, after Bindi was born, he told the show Australian Story, “You know what? I never wanted to be a dad. I couldn’t really give a rip, and now I am the proudest father, I gotta tell ya. I can’t dwell on her for too long or I start bawling my eyes out.”

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19. Steve thought crocodiles were easier than people

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In Terri’s 2007 book Steve & Me, she revealed one of her husband’s philosophies in life. According to Steve, “Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.” That short quote says an awful lot about the relationship he had with animals.

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18. Steve’s controversial actions changed Australian law

The infamous incident where Steve held baby Robert near a crocodile had long-lasting repercussions. It not only went down in Australian history – it also changed the law. In February 2005 the Australian State Government issued new rules stating that no child and no grown-up without proper training would lawfully be allowed inside a croc enclosure.

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17. Steve wanted to cut off a broken finger

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In his 2004 interview with Larry King Steve casually brought up an incident in which one of his fingers “got snapped off behind the knuckle” while catching crocodiles. Then, “I wanted to cut it off, but my daughter said ‘Oh please, daddy.’ I said, ‘No, it would be great Bindi. We’ll have a little pet daddy finger.’ She’s like ‘No, dad.’”

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16. A cameraman heard Steve’s last words

Cameraman Justin Lyons was with Steve when he died. And in March 2014 he told Australia’s Channel Ten what he’d witnessed. According to Lyons, “I was saying to him things like, ‘Think of your kids Steve. Hang on, hang on, hang on.’ And he calmly looked up at me and said, ‘I’m dying,’ and that was the last thing he said.”

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15. Steve once saved a diver’s life

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In 2003 Steve heard that a scuba diving mission had gone wrong near where he was filming. One of the divers was still missing. So, the croc hunter dropped everything and went to see if he could find him – and he succeeded. In 2006 the man, Scott Jones, told The Sydney Morning Herald that Steve had helped to spare his life.

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14. Steve was scared of parrots

It seems remarkable that a man who regularly handled crocodiles would be scared of parrots – but Steve was. In 2001 he told Scientific American magazine, “The only animals I’m not comfortable with are parrots. But I’m learning as I go… for some reason parrots have to bite me. That’s their job. I don’t know why that is. They’ve nearly torn my nose off.”

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13. Steve always made time for his kids

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Steve was by all accounts a very good father. In 2007 his friend Wes Mannion told the Courier Mail newspaper, “He put so much time into the kids… Like, if he was in a meeting and Bindi would come up and go ‘daddy, daddy’ he wouldn’t go ‘uh-uh, this is a really important meeting, off you go.’ He would grab her and play with her and love her.”

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12. Steve’s father was furious when details of his death were reported

After Justin Lyons came out and spoke about what he’d witnessed the day Steve died, members of the Irwin family were furious. In May 2015 Steve’s father Bob told ABC’s Australian Story, “I personally felt very sad and to a degree angry about what Justin had to say. For a lot of people trying to get on with their lives without Steve – it wasn’t something that helped by any means.”

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11. Steve’s death was only the third of its kind in Australia

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The manner in which Steve’s life ended was an incredibly unlikely one. Stingrays are usually quite docile, and tend not to attack humans. Yet the barb which stung Steve got him right in the chest, and it was a wound he couldn’t survive. The tragedy was reportedly only the third incident on record of a stingray causing death in Australia.

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10. Steve was handling dangerous animals from a very young age

Even when he was a child, Steve was allowed to spend time with dangerous animals. In 2004 he told Larry King, “[My parents] started Australia Zoo in 1970, so I was running around in the wilderness since the day I was born… When I was 9 years of age, [my dad] allowed me to catch my first croc and I guess I must have made him proud.”

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9. Steve was devastated at criticism

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After the infamous baby-crocodile incident, Steve was slammed from all sides – and he hated it. In 2004 he told Larry King, “I was absolutely devastated. I was taken to the lowest point of my entire life… The authorities came in, the relevant authorities came in… They did a thorough investigation. There was absolutely no case.”

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8. The Irwins had an unusual honeymoon

Once they were married, Steve and Terri embarked on their new life together. But they didn’t do any of the stuff that a normal pair of newlyweds would have done. Instead, they headed off to save stricken crocodiles. And the footage they filmed of this excursion became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter TV show.

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7. All footage of Steve’s death was destroyed

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After her husband died, Terri was determined that no footage of the accident would ever see the light of day. The Queensland State Police Department viewed the tape as part of their investigation, but then it was destroyed. Sometimes videos appear online claiming to be the lost footage of Steve’s death, but all of them are fakes.

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6. Steve’s children might have been on his last boat ride

Steve’s death was horrible, but potentially it could have been even worse – his kids might have been there to witness it. In 2018 Terri told You magazine, “I know how my husband died and I was relieved that the children weren’t on the boat as they usually would be. It would have been horrendous if they had witnessed it.”

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5. There’s reportedly a rift in the Irwin family

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Bob Irwin, father of Steve, reportedly has fallen out with the rest of the family. When Bindi got engaged to Chandler Powell in 2019, Bob told the Courier Mail newspaper, “I haven’t had an invite to the wedding. And to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t expect to be invited.” Bindi, for her part, told New Idea magazine in 2015 that her grandfather “chose to distance himself from everything dad loved the most.”

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4. Stingrays were found mutilated after his death

Tragically, Steve’s death resulted in something that neither he nor his family would ever have wanted. You see, in the weeks after his death, stingrays were found washed up on beaches, dead, and with their tails sliced off – perhaps as an act of revenge from his fans. Steve’s conservation group Wildlife Warriors condemned those actions in the strongest terms.

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3. Terri stopped dating after Steve

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In 2018 Terri told People magazine that she hadn’t dated since Steve’s death and had no plans to do so. She had, she said, “already had my happily ever after.” Rumors have constantly arisen that she’s found romance again – actor Russell Crowe was apparently her new man in 2017 – but she’s always rubbished such claims.

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2. Terri is relieved a crocodile didn’t kill Steve

Although Steve’s death was a terrible tragedy, Terri thinks there’s a way it could have been more tragic. In October 2018 she told You magazine, with a rueful smile noted by the interviewer, “Steve would be pleased that at least he wasn’t killed by a crocodile. It would have undone all his efforts to change public perceptions about them.”

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1. PETA never approved of him

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In February 2019 Google released a Google Doodle of Steve. In response, animal rights group PETA tweeted at them, “Steve Irwin was killed while harassing a ray. He dangled his baby while feeding a crocodile and wrestled wild animals who were minding their own business. Today’s Google Doodle sends a dangerous, fawning message.” It seems that he wasn’t without his critics.

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