A Mahopac man who jumped into a tiger den at the Bronx Zoo "to be one with the tiger" and survived a mauling pleaded not guilty Friday to trespassing charges.

David Villalobos, 25, was arraigned Friday on a third-degree trespassing charge and released until another court appearance March 12, according to the Bronx District Attorney's office. He faces up to three months in jail if convicted.

Villalobos told New York City Police Department investigators that his Sept. 21 leap was not a suicide attempt but "a desire to be one with the tiger."

He jumped from a monorail car in the zoo's Wild Asia exhibit and cleared a fence, falling 20 feet into the tigers' area.

Villalobos was attacked by a 400-pound Siberian tiger named Bashuta. He suffered bites on his arms, legs, shoulders and back and broke his arm and ankle in the fall.

According to the criminal complaint, Villalobos told an officer, "I was testing my natural fear."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He was alone with the tiger for about 10 minutes before being rescued by zoo officials, who used a fire extinguisher to chase the animal away.

Villalobos is a 2006 graduate of Mahopac High School, and played on the football team there, according to records. More recently, he was a real estate agent with New York City-based BOND New York. He is no longer employed with the company.

A call to Villalobos' home was not immediately returned Friday, and information on his legal representation was not available from Bronx County Court.

Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

The best of Newsday every day in your inbox.

 

With The Associated Press