Colombian drug-sniffing dog is real-life McGruff -- and powerful cartels are taking notice

A real-life McGruff is taking a bite out of crime in Colombia, sniffing her way to high-profile drug busts -- and now, the cartels have started taking notice.

One Colombian drug syndicate has already put a $70,000 bounty on Sombra's furry head, looking to quickly quash the 6-year-old canine crimefighter, officials said.

The German shepherd has already followed her nose toward a record number of drug detections, finding illicit stashes hidden in suitcases, boats and even large shipments of fruit. She has helped police take more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine off the streets.

Colombian police recently revealed that the Gulf Clan, a cartel that boasts its own guerrilla army, has offered a reward of $70,000 to whoever kills or captures the savvy hound.

Colombian police recently revealed that the Gulf Clan, a cartel that boasts its own guerrilla army, has offered a reward of $70,000 to whoever kills or captures the savvy hound. (AP)

Recent busts by Sombra – which is Spanish for Shadow – include uncovering over five tons of cocaine concealed in crates of bananas destined for Europe. A few months ago, the tenacious hound sniffed out 77 kilos of cocaine placed deep inside an industrial machine.

“Her sense of smell is far beyond that of other dogs,” Jose Rojas, Sombra’s 25-year-old handler, told the Associated Press.

But that talent could end up being her undoing.

The Gulf Clan – one of Colombia’s most powerful cartels, even boasting its own guerrilla army – has put out a $7,000 reward for whoever kills or captures the savvy hound.

Drug dog Sombra inspects a suitcase at the El Dorado airport in Bogota, Colombia

Drug dog Sombra inspects a suitcase at the El Dorado airport in Bogota, Colombia (AP)

The threat has prompted officials to move the pup from her busy post on Colombia’s Caribbean coast to the more private El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.

Investigators uncovered the threat against Sombra after reviewing an intercepted phone call, local newspapers reported.

“Sombra the German shepherd has become the terror of criminal organizations,” a recent story in Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper stated.

Some of Sombra’s recent busts include uncovering over five tons of Gulf Clan cocaine destined for Europe and concealed in crates of bananas.

Some of Sombra’s recent busts include uncovering over five tons of Gulf Clan cocaine destined for Europe and concealed in crates of bananas. (AP)

Her detective work is essential in Colombia, which is wrestling with soaring coco production. A recent White House report found the amount of land used to harvest the plant rose 11 percent in 2017, despite $10 billion in U.S. counter-narcotics work.

President-elect Ivan Duque is promising a tougher approach to speed up eradication of the drug, including aerial spraying and the use of drones. But even with advanced technology, experts say on-the-ground detective work such as Sombra's is critical.

Sombra’s detective work is needed now more than ever as Colombia wrestles with soaring coca production that is testing traditionally close relations with the United States.

Sombra’s detective work is needed now more than ever as Colombia wrestles with soaring coca production that is testing traditionally close relations with the United States. (AP)

Colombia's national police estimates it has lost at least 1,800 officers -- and a number of dogs -- to the war on drugs in the past two decades. Several pooches have been killed while helping officers eradicate coca crops.

Sombra's victories have turned her into somewhat of a media darling, and, as she struts around Bogota's airport with her handler, fans occasionally stop her for a selfie.

Rojas said the star-like attention hasn't gone to Sombra's head.

"Sombra, in comparison to other dogs, is much easier to work with," he said. "She understands orders from a leader, and she's more playful than the others."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.