<p>This photo shows an uncollared adult female mountain lion photographed with a motion sensor camera in the Verdugos Mountains in in Los Angeles County</p>

This photo shows an uncollared adult female mountain lion photographed with a motion sensor camera in the Verdugos Mountains in in Los Angeles County

AP

A mother has been hailed as a hero after she used her bare hands to fight off a mountain lion that was attacking her five-year-old son outside their home in southern California.

The woman, who has not been named, punched the 65-pound (30kg) animal and yanked it away after it launched at the boy while he was playing near their house on Thursday in Calabasas.

Captain Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the California department of fish and wildlife, said the wild animal “dragged him about 45 yards” across the front lawn.

The boy suffered significant injuries to his head and upper torso but was in a stable condition at a Los Angeles hospital, Foy said.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” Foy said.

He told how the mother was inside the house when she heard a commotion outside.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” he said.

The parents immediately drove the boy to the hospital, where staff alerted authorities about the attack.

They sent a wildlife officer to the scene and, once at the house, the officer discovered a mountain lion crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at him, Foy said.

The lion has now been shot and killed by a wildlife officer, authorities say.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on site,” the wildlife department said in a statement.

Subsequent DNA tests confirmed that the lion was the one responsible for attacking the child, the statement said.

Another mountain lion spotted in the area was tranquilised and then released into the wild unharmed after being tested to be sure it was not involved in the attack.

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