By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Siberian tiger critically injured a man who jumped into the big cat's den at New York's Bronx Zoo on Friday, retreating only after emergency workers scared it off with a fire extinguisher.
The man, 25, was riding the zoo's elevated monorail in the afternoon and leapt from a car, clearing a fence around the tiger enclosure, according to a statement from the zoo.
He was taken to a local hospital in critical condition. His condition was later upgraded to stable, a spokeswoman for the Jacobi Medical Center said.
Zoo and fire officials said the man received bites or puncture wounds on his arms, legs and shoulder during the roughly 10 minutes he was alone with the tiger.
"One leg was severely injured," said Frank Dwyer, a fire department spokesman, although he could not confirm early reports the man lost a foot in the incident.
In rescuing the man, the zoo's emergency workers used a fire extinguisher to repel the tiger, then ordered the man to roll under an electrified perimeter wire to safety. The staff had been prepared to use deadly force if necessary, zoo director Jim Breheny told a televised news conference.
"If not for the quick response by our staff and their ability to perform well in emergency situations, the outcome would have been very different," the zoo said.
The tiger involved is an 11-year-old, 400-pound (180-kg) male named Bachuta, Breheny said. The director said the zoo would review the incident but would not put the tiger down or take it out of the exhibit.
Breheny said the incident was "just an extraordinary event that happened because somebody was trying to endanger themselves."
"The tiger did nothing wrong in this case at all," he said.
In July, tigers at a zoo in Copenhagen killed a man who scaled a fence and crossed a moat to get into their den, and wolves at Sweden's largest zoo killed a zookeeper in their enclosure in June.
(Additional reporting by Emily Flitter and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney)