Divers find body of woman dragged into lake by 12ft alligator in Florida

The scene at Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, in Florida, as authorities worked to capture an alligator believed to have snatched a woman – AP

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No one knows if Shizuka Matsuki heard the warnings about alligators circulated to local homeowners after a 6ft specimen was spotted close to a front door.

On Friday, she set off as usual with her dogs for a walk beside a suburban Florida lake.

Her body was found at the weekend. Officials said she had been bitten and almost certainly killed by an alligator that was later trapped and euthanised.

An examination confirmed that the alligator had bitten 47-year-old Matsuki, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said in a statement.

Rob Klepper, a spokesman, said they were able to identify the woman from evidence collected during the examination of the alligator, but he declined to offer further details.

Local media were less circumspect. Citing unnamed officials, they said her arm was found inside the creature. It was identified by a tattoo.

Her death is a reminder of the danger posed by alligators, particularly as humans seek out waterfront leisure activities.

The Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park is hardly the untamed wilderness. It stands in a residential part of Davie, on the edge of Fort Lauderdale, just across a turnpike from the popular Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Emergency servces were alerted on Friday when a witness told police he had seen a woman walking two dogs but later spotted the pets alone and agitated, barking at the water.

More than 400 people have been bitten by alligators in Florida since 1948, according to the state’s wildlife commission Credit: Getty Images

One of the dogs had a fresh injury, a gash on its side, said Viviana Gallinal, a Davie Police detective.

“The witness who called us went to the area where he thought that they had been walking, and he immediately spotted an alligator,” she said.

Authorities closed the park as they tracked down the alligator and hunted for the missing woman.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Shizuka Matsuki,” said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A guide to living with alligators | Safety tips

Friends said they were devastated by the news.

Peter Limia, a neighbour of Matsuki and her husband, said Matsuki regularly walked her dogs at the pond.

“It’s such a sad story, I can’t even process it,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Something like this is so freakish.”

A warning had recently been circulated reminding residents of the dangers of local wildlife and to be particularly watchful for alligators.

Neil Fischer, another neighbour, said Matsuki may have believed the park offered a degree of safety after another pet had been snatched by an alligator closer to her home.

Police divers haul a boat to the entrance of Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park on Friday Credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP

“She probably thought that Lake was safer alternative, after so many gators have been showing up around here lately,” he wrote on Facebook. So sad…

“Prayers to the friends, and family. We have to remember to stay alert when walking up to a lake, or any body of water.”

Fatal attacks on humans remain rare. According to the wildlife commission, the likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator attack in Florida is about one in 3.2 million.

The commission has recorded 401 people bitten by alligators, including 24 fatalities, since 1947. The most recent death occurred in 2016, when a two-year-old boy playing near the water’s edge at a Walt Disney World resort was killed.

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