Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are potentially dangerous to humans, yet they have major cultural value to many people in Timor-Leste. Recent increases in attack risk are influencing traditional attitudes, threatening culls of remaining wild crocodile populations. To understand patterns that may assist mitigation, we compiled attack records for the period of April 2007 to April 2014, using the CrocBITE online database. Recorded attacks (n = 45) showed a high fatality rate (82.2%), the majority (77.8%) being recorded since 2010. The highest proportion of attacks (46.7%) occurred in southern coastal wetlands suited to crocodiles, areas representing major sources of food, livelihoods and ecosystem services (i.e. fisheries, timber, coastal protection) for locals. Subsistence fishing posed the highest attack risk, particularly from September to February when food security is low. Attacks matched gender roles (most victims were males, the primary fishers) and demographic patterns (teenagers, the fastest growth group, comprised the highest proportion). Predicted increases in food insecurity, fishing activities, coastal impacts and rising human and crocodile populations pose worrying implications for human–crocodile conflict. We recommend essential baseline surveys enabling meaningful management decisions, and suggest that tailored management and educational awareness based on proven existing models could substantially mitigate attack risk while remaining compatible with traditional Timorese attitudes towards crocodiles.