News of Australian crocodile hunter Steve Irwin's death had website traffic in overdrive today, with many news sites operating on low-bandwidth mode as a result of high traffic.

The spike spread across a number of news sites as internet users were unsure if the sad news was a possible hoax.

Many news outlets ran unconfirmed reports that the 44-year-old television personality and environmentalist died in a marine accident in North Queensland when stung on the chest by a stingray.

AAP (Australian Associated Press) said the news was official, and based on unnamed police sources.

Irwin was famous for his catchphrase 'crikey!'. AAP said his American-born wife, Terri, who is trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, was unaware of the news.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation today had this notice on its site: " is experiencing higher than normal traffic. You are currently viewing a low bandwidth page. The normal homepage will return when traffic is back to normal."