Trappers who captured a gator that they believe dragged a woman into a lake while she was walking her dogs said Friday afternoon they found body parts inside the reptile.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
A massive search has been underway since Friday morning when 47-year-old Shizuka Matsuki of Plantation was walking her two dogs at the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, just west of Florida’s Turnpike, when she was grabbed by an alligator.
"After an initial necropsy, evidence was found that indicates that the victim of this incident was bitten by the alligator that was captured earlier today," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Robert Klepper said in an email. "The FWC believes that the victim is deceased and we will continue recovery efforts on the lake with local authorities."
Authorities reported that "human remains" were found inside the gator. The park is closed to the public until further notice, police said.
"One of her dogs got bit by the gator," Davie Police Maj. Dale Engle told the Sun Sentinel. Matsuki's husband, who is out of town, has been told his wife went missing after walking the dogs, the paper reported.
A witness told police he saw the woman walking her two pit bulls on the path around the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, which sits between Stirling and Griffin roads just west of the Turnpike, according to Local 10 News. The two were walking in different directions and parted ways. The park is surrounded by a residential community.
Soon after, he saw the two dogs without the woman and one dog appeared to be severely injured. The woman was nowhere around and a gator had been spotted in the pond. The dogs are currently with Broward County Animal Care.
Animal Care, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were all at the scene.
"This tragedy is heartbreaking for everyone involved," Klepper said.
On Friday night, neighbors at Isla del Sol, the gated community in Plantation where Matsuki lived, said Matsuki was a "petite and friendly woman" who would walk her three pit bulls every morning in workout attire.
“She was just your ordinary soccer mom,” said neighbor Peter Limia, a 37-year-old commercial realtor. “It’s a tragedy.”
After the attack, Limia gathered with a handful of his neighbors on Matsuki’s street and learned that Matsuki’s husband had warned his wife against taking their dogs down to the nature park alone.
“He had warned her not to take the dogs over to that place because they had seen gators before and it isn’t safe,” Limia said, relaying the information he heard at the meeting from another neighbor.
Located near a boat ramp, the community is no stranger to alligators.
On Wednesday, a neighbor of Matsuki's photographed an alligator lounging on her front porch. Police were called and the gator was removed. The Isla del Sol Homeowners Association sent out a memo notifying residents that wildlife encounters were common in Florida, and to be careful.
“It’s crazy,” Limia said. “The announcement two days before. ... It’s insane.”
According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida has averaged six unprovoked alligator bites per year over the last 10 years. These wounds are serious enough to require professional medical treatment.
There has not been a significant trend in alligator attacks in the past decade, the FWC reports. From 1948 to 2017, 401 unprovoked bite incidents have occurred in Florida with 24 of these proving fatal.
In June 2016, a Nebraska toddler who was visiting a Disney World resort in the Orlando area was grabbed and killed by a gator at one of the resort's lakes.