Two days before alligator killed woman, her community was urged to be on guard

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Wayne K. Roustan

Published June 12, 2018

Alligator attack victim Shizuka Matsuki lived in a waterfront community where a warning about a trespassing gator went out to homeowners two days before she was killed while walking her dogs in a Davie park.

It’s unclear whether the 47-year-old woman, whose body was recovered Friday night, ever got the email alert from the Isla del Sol Homeowners Association in Plantation that urged residents to “exercise caution with our families and pets, mindful that alligators, snakes, and other wildlife may be in the area.”

The notice said the 6-foot gator, which was spotted by someone’s front door, was trapped, but to still be careful.

What’s clear is that Matsuki went to Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park and was attacked by the lake there, according to Davie police and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Details about the tragedy were not yet known, and apparently no one witnessed the attack.


“The FWC will be conducting a thorough investigation into this incident,” commission spokesman Robert Klepper wrote in a statement Saturday morning.

Trappers caught a 12-foot-6-inch alligator Friday afternoon and found the victim’s arm inside its stomach, officials said. A tattoo confirmed the arm as Matsuki’s.

“Search teams located the body of Shizuka Matsuki at approximately 9:49 p.m., June 8, 2018 at the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park lake in Davie,” said Klepper.

The woman had been to the park before, according to Peter Limia, whose family lives across the street from Matsuki and her husband, Yukio.

“It’s not uncommon for her to go there,” said Limia, adding Matsuki and her spouse also regularly walked her three dogs within the gated Isla del Sol community.

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

Another neighbor, Nate Fischer, told the Miami Herald that Matsuki could have been spooked by reports of nearby gator sightings.

“She probably thought that Lake was safer alternative, after so many gators have been showing up around here lately,” Fischer wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “So sad.”

Efforts to reach Yukio Matsuki on Saturday were unsuccessful. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Davie police also could not be reached Saturday evening despite attempts by phone.

On Friday, police said they were called by a passerby who noticed Shizuka Matsuki with two dogs. A short while later only saw the dogs barking at the water’s edge. One of the dogs was bitten by the gator; both dogs were taken to Broward County Animal and Care and Adoption.

Some neighbors have complained about the alligators at the park in the 5600 block of Southwest 52nd Street.

Davie resident Trina Gonzalez recalled visiting the park a year ago and seeing a large gator swim up to the bank after her son threw bread in the water to feed the fish.

“That gator was there in a heartbeat,” she said. “We never went back again.”

Park lore, according to Gonzalez, was that the large gator was treated by other visitors as a mascot, of sort. They sabotaged traps set to catch it, she said.

Three trappers had been hired in the past 18 to 24 months to try to capture the gator, Davie’s assistant parks director said. He hadn’t heard of any sabotaged traps or interference in capturing the alligator.

The gator eluded the traps and there hadn’t been a sighting in the last month, said Jeff Polhman, the assistant director.