The woman was asleep with her child in her rural California home Monday morning when her Portuguese Podengo's barking woke her in the predawn dark.

An intruder.

According to police, the woman watched as a "shadow of an animal" slunk through the room's French doors. The figure snatched the 15-pound dog from the foot of her bed, then walked out.

Using a flashlight, the woman searched for the pooch but found only a trail of large, wet paw prints on the floor outside. She called 911. Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office arrived and found more paw prints near the house.

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A mountain lion was the likely culprit, they said.

The woman and her child live in the small town of Pescadero, California, where encounters with the animals are common. More than half of the state is considered mountain lion habitat, and it's not unusual for the stealthy creatures to attack livestock and household pets, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rarely, however, do they make it all the way into a house, sheriff's spokesman Salvador Zuno told the Los Angeles Times.

"They are very shaken up about what happened," Zuno said of the woman and her child, who were not identified.

Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the state fish and wildlife department, said the department was still trying to figure out if the animal was indeed a mountain lion.

"It's too early to tell," he said.

Whatever the case, the woman seemed to have taken the right precautions against mountain lion attacks. The fish and wildlife department encourages homeowners in California to keep pets inside at dawn, dusk and night time, when mountain lions are most active.

It also warns against leaving pets and small children unattended, and recommends keeping pet food indoors.

Late last year, not far from where the Portuguese Podengo disappeared, a couple in northern California got a glimpse of the creature's killing power.

Mary L Mines and Peter Rauenbuehler, who live south of San Francisco in Hillsborough, told The Washington Post they were awakened by the sound of a struggle and dogs barking early one morning in December.

Security video from the couple's home captured a mountain lion standing over a dead deer on the front porch, then dragging it away by the neck. It reportedly lugged its prey to a neighbour's home, ate "a couple bites," and left it there.

Though it's unusual, mountain lions do attack people. Last June, a mother saved her 5-year-old son after a mountain lion pounced on him near their home, as The Post reported. He was treated for non-life-threatening injuries to his face, head and neck.

At the Los Angeles Zoo, a koala wasn't so lucky. In March 2016, zookeepers found a koala's bloody remains outside the animals' enclosure. Surveillance footage showed a mountain lion believed to be one of the zoo's own lurking near the scene, as The Post reported.

Though the incident was sad, one wildlife worker said, it was "normal predatory behaviour. Essentially a lion being a lion and eating."