A woman in California has rescued her five-year-old son from an attack by a mountain lion.

The boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas in the Santa Monica mountains, west of Los Angeles, when the lion pounced on him.

The child was dragged across the front lawn, but his mother ran out and struck the mountain lion with her bare hands until it let go of her son.

The animal was later found and shot dead by wildlife authorities.

The boy suffered injuries to his head and torso, but is now in a stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Capt Patrick Foy, a spokesperson for California’s department of fish and wildlife, told AP that the mother had “absolutely saved her son’s life”.

After arriving at the scene, a wildlife officer found a mountain lion crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing”, the department said.

The officer killed the lion, believing it was the likely culprit “due to its behaviour and proximity to the attack”. A DNA test later confirmed that it was the animal that had attacked the child.

Attacks by mountain lions are very rare in North America.

Officials said the animal involved was young. Experts believe that it was still learning how to hunt and fend for itself, according to CBS News.

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