Human body parts were found in the stomach of an a 12-foot alligator that was captured at a South Florida pond where it attacked and likely killed a woman Friday, officials said.
The gator was captured after the woman was reported missing near the pond at Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park in the 5600 block of Southwest 52nd Avenue in Davie, police said.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is handling the investigation, said in a statement that “evidence was found that indicates that the victim of this incident was bitten by the alligator.”
FWC officials said body parts were located in the gator and sources told NBC 6 that an arm was found in the stomach. They identified the missing woman as Yukio Matsuki.
A witness told authorities he saw the woman walking two dogs near the pond Friday morning and then noticed the dogs barking near the water, but he did not see the woman again, said Davie Police Detective Viviana Gallinal.
“He could not find the woman that was walking the dogs, so he called for police assistance, and we’re still looking for her,” Gallinal said. Earlier news media reports indicated the witness reported seeing the gator drag the woman into the water. Police did not immediately clarify the discrepancy.
Trappers spotted the 12-foot alligator in the pond and were able to capture it before it was euthanized, FWC officials said.
“The FWC believes that the victim is deceased and we will continue recovery efforts on the lake with local authorities,” FWC said in the statement. “This tragedy is heartbreaking for everyone involved, and our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim at this time.”
Meanwhile, “her dogs won’t leave the pond,” Davie Police Maj. Dale Engle said. “One of her dogs got bit by the gator.”
Jim Borelli, a friend of the woman, said she and her husband have walked their dogs in the park previously.
Borelli said the woman’s husband, who is out of town, sent him to the park to get more information after being contacted by Davie Police.
“I’m praying that nothing happened to her,” Borelli said.
Authorities closed the park Friday, but passers-by said they were not surprised to hear about an alligator lurking in the water.
“Any body of water in Florida, you’ve got to know at some point or another there’s an alligator,” said Heather Porrata, who lives nearby.
Sharon Estupinan said a park ranger warned her to walk her dogs farther away from the water’s edge after she saw a 10-foot gator in the pond three days ago.
“I was afraid,” she said. “Every time I walked the dogs during the day, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve gotta keep away from there. I have to call my dogs,’ so they wouldn’t get close to the water or any of the trees near there because he could be hiding. Although, he’s really big. I don’t think he could really hide.”
Alligators and humans frequently cross paths in Florida, as people increasingly seek waterfront homes and recreation.
The large reptiles can be found in fresh and brackish bodies of water — including lakes, rivers, canals and golf course ponds — and there is roughly 6.7 million acres of suitable habitat statewide. They are particularly active during their mating season in May and June.
Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat what is readily available and easily overpowered. Feeding wild alligators is illegal because they could lose their fear of humans.
Fatal attacks on humans remain rare, however. According to the wildlife commission, the likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.2 million.
From 1948 to 2017, the commission has documented 401 people bitten by alligators, including 24 fatalities. The most recent death occurred in 2016, when a 2-year-old boy playing near the water’s edge at a Walt Disney World resort was killed.