A YEAR after his hand was almost torn away from his arm, Australia's real-life "Mick Dundee" has spoken about his lucky escape from a 4.5m crocodile that nearly killed him.

Rob Bredl - nicknamed the Barefoot Bushman - is known internationally in the same vein as the famous character from the 1980s movies and Steve Irwin, of Crocodile Hunter fame.

He believes he understands animal behaviour and has used that to good effect to ride on the backs of big crocs - an act he maintains isn't as dangerous as it looks.

He says he is passionate about conservation and wants Australians to get closer to their unique wildlife - even if getting close almost cost him his life.

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In September last year he made a mistake with a 4.5m croc called Tripod.

In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, Bredl told journalist Charles Wooley it was he who made the mistake, not Tripod.

He was feeding Tripod some meat at his wildlife farm in North Queensland and the croc got the hunk of meat stuck between two bottom teeth.

"Normally I'd close his eyes or flick it out [with a stick]," he said.

But on that day he didn't close his eyes and used his hand to roll the meat out of Tripod's jaws.

It's something he now calls a "brain fart".

Bredl said he can still hear the sound of his hand crunching.

"He just bit through my hand ... and I knew they would go for another bite, and when he goes for another bite I was going to take it out. But I think those two teeth that were hooked in at the bottom were too tight. So when I pulled back I must have pulled against them and didn't get it out."

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Bredl is still recovering from his severe hand injuries. Photo / AFP
Bredl is still recovering from his severe hand injuries. Photo / AFP

Tripod "lunged forward and got me higher" and began to back into the water - with Bredl's arm locked in his jaws.

"He's 650kg and I'm 80kg. I'm not going to win that tug of war."

As Bredl's nephew Zeb watched in horror, Tripod went into the "death roll".

"As he went into the roll I could see four teeth sticking through and I could see my hand start to tear off."

Tripod rolled a second time and Bredl knew if he did a third time he would lose his hand.

He rolled with the crocodile. The action put him over Tripod's head and that may have caused the reptile to let go of Bredl's trapped hand.

"I must have been in shock. I didn't even know he let go. Next thing I know I see this big head [come through the water] and bit my leg. I thought to myself 'this is not good'."

He then let go - and at that moment Zeb pushed a big stick down Tripod's throat.

Zeb used the stick to push Tripod away and was able to rescue his uncle from the water.

"I thought he'd made an error that was going to cost him his life. I was just lucky to get him out of there."