Bronx Zoo officials expressed relief that the 400-pound tiger spared the man's life.
"I think it's safe to say if he wanted to do harm he would have," said Jim Breheny, Bronx Zoo Director.
The 11-year-old Siberian tiger they call "Bachuta" did bite 25-year-old David Villalobos several times.
It left him with multiple puncture wounds on his arms, legs, shoulders and back and he also sustained a broken ankle and arm.
"He made a deliberate attempt to get over the fence, this wasn't an accident," Breheny said.
At about 3 p.m. Friday, officials say Villalobos was on the zoo's Wild Asia monorail in the last car by himself.
Then at the tiger exhibit, he jumped 17 feet and cleared the fences.
For 10 minutes, the 25-year-old was on the ground in the pen with the tiger until zoo emergency teams and the NYPD could get to the exhibit and with a fire extinguisher distract the tiger.
While officials know what happened they are still trying to determine why it happened.
Why did Villalobos do it? Was it a suicide attempt?
At his family's home in Mahopac his sister refused to go on camera and neighbors are grasping for answers as well.
The tiger is expected to be back in the exhibit perhaps as early as Saturday.
Villalobos will remain hospitalized at Jacobi Medical Center where he is listed in stable condition.
Zoo officials say the outcome come could have been dramatically different.
"We did not have to use deadly force but we were prepared to if we had to," Breheny said.
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