updated 6/26/2008 4:21:49 AM ET 2008-06-26T08:21:49

Drinkers at an Outback watering hole found a crocodile at the door — and brought it inside for their session.

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The saltwater croc in question was just 24 inches long and more a curiosity than a threat to drinkers at the Noonamah Tavern on Sunday, though the species can grow to more than 16 feet.

Barmaid Sarah Sparre said Thursday that three patrons spotted the saltwater crocodile outside the pub, grabbed it and brought it inside.

"You could say we were a bit surprised," Sparre said. "He was pretty complacent, easygoing. But we weren't going to test him out."

The three men taped up its mouth, took some photos of them holding it, then put it in a box near the bar.

Sparre said the croc may have escaped from a farm for the animals that was several miles away.

Wildlife officials took the croc to the farm.

Noonamah comprises little more than a gas station and a bar on the main north-south highway through Australia, about 25 miles from the Northern Territory capital of Darwin.

Saltwater crocodiles, once hunted to near extinction by skinners, have flourished in Australia's tropical north since they became a protected species in the 1970s. They are aggressive hunters who have been known to attack people.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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