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Like any other mum of four, Shanda Zapata, 35, has her hands full at home. But away from home, Shanda also has her hands full – of guns! Because Shanda earns a living tracking down on-the-run fugitives!

Shanda's armed and ready for business

Shanda’s armed and ready for business

Shanda, from Denver, USA, has worked as a bounty hunter ever since she saw an advert on the Internet and decided that was the life for her. She had previously worked as a waitress.

Shanda – who has been shot at, and attacked with a knife as well as intravenous needles – admits that the work is dangerous. ‘Every day could be your last,’ she says.

In a male-dominated profession, pretty, blonde Shanda says her gender is both help and hindrance. ‘I’m respected and hated at the same time… I feel like I have to work ten times harder because I’m constantly proving myself.’ But her femininity can be an advantage too. ‘Sometimes we set people up, like in a bar situation where I’ll get all dolled up and kind of catfish them.’

The rewards – as well as the risk – can be big

The rewards – as well as the risk – can be big

As well as risk, there’s plenty of potential reward in bounty hunting, with thousands of dollars on offer to the people who capture fugitives. And Shanda needs the money more than most. A combination of serious illness and a lack of medical insurance has left her a staggering $800,000 (£550,000) in debt.

She has battled cancer a number of times – including when she was mum to a 6-month-old baby – and so has a full awareness of how precious life is. No surprise then that Shanda ensures the odds are stacked in her favour when confronting someone on the run. ‘You pull a gun on me, and you start shooting, I guarantee I will hit my mark before you will. I will go home at the end of the day.’

It's a risky business but Shanda knows what she's doing

It’s a risky business but Shanda knows what she’s doing

Shanda is proud of her achievements. ‘I’ve been through a lot of struggles, and with hard work I’ve managed to become somebody. It makes me stand a little bit stronger knowing that I was capable of doing that, and yes I’m a female and I can put away people that are dangerous, that are wanted, and doing harm. A female can do that.’