Discover the Bizarre Story of the “Cocaine Bear” that’s Being Made Into a Movie!

Written by Sarah Psaradelis
Published: December 6, 2022
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This whole story might sound unbelievable, but it did indeed happen. Not only has the situation been investigated by law enforcement, but it is also being made into a major motion picture inspired by the true story.

The story of the cocaine bear is precisely as it sounds, a bear ingested a large amount of cocaine that resulted in two deaths that day – the bear itself and the drug smuggler.

Quick Facts

Where it happened:Knoxville, Tennessee, Kentucky
Casualties involved:American black bear and drug smuggler Andrew Carter Thornton II.
Date it happened:September to November 1985
Amount of cocaine:Between 70 to 90 pounds of cocaine (worth $14 to $15 million).
Bears resting place:Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington

How It Happened

We’ve researched and gathered the necessary information to share how this bizarre situation occurred. We will also share the details regarding the movie.

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It Started With A Dead Body

On the 11th of September in 1985, a man walked out onto his driveway to discover a dead body. It happened to be the dead body of a drug smuggler named Andrew Carter Thornton II. Andrew was a drug smuggler, although he was previously a police officer, lawyer, and paratrooper before turning to a life of drugs.

His body was found on the man’s driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee. The deceased was found wearing a bulletproof vest with thousands of dollars of cash and a hefty amount of cocaine.

Investigators declared that Andrew had died after a parachute fail. It is theorized that he died after fleeing the drug smuggling plane after putting it on autopilot and opening the parachute too late before the impact killed him. Andrew’s plane was located approximately 60 miles away and identified with a key that Andrew was carrying with him at his time of death.

The Cocaine Bears Discovery and Controversy

black bear
In November of 1985, just two months after Andrews’s body was discovered, a hunter found the dead body of a 175-pound American black bear.

©Jim Cumming/

In November of 1985, just two months after Andrews’s body was discovered, a hunter found the dead body of a 175-pound American black bear. This was the second death from this whole incident. It seemed that the bear, now nicknamed the “Cocaine Bear,” had eaten anywhere between 70 to 90 pounds of cocaine. It is theorized that the bear found the cocaine from one of the duffel bags that had fallen from the plane, which would have been worth at least 14 million dollars.

The bear was found in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The medical examiner claimed the bear’s stomach was “filled to the brim” with cocaine. However, the bear was believed to have only absorbed between 3 to 4 grams of the cocaine before passing.

The cocaine bear had enough cocaine in his stomach to kill a T-Rex dinosaur. It is unclear why the bear was interested in ingesting such a large amount of the drug. There is also a debate over whether the bear indeed did consume such a large amount of cocaine or if the drugs were taken by someone else.

The controversy over whether the bear ingested the drugs was sparked because the hunter only informed authorities after three weeks had passed, and all 40 cocaine bags from the plane were opened and completely empty. The bear seemed to have eaten only one of the cocaine-filled duffel bags, with all the others emptied. A local passer-by could have taken the drugs, but we will never know.

Cocaine Bear: The Movie


This whole story was so bizarre that it inspired a new movie by Universal Pictures. Set in the Kentucky forest, the movie’s synopsis will feature an American black bear going on a murderous rampage after accidentally ingesting a large amount of cocaine. The film will be portrayed as close to the original story as possible.

The only difference between the movie and the actual story is that the bear seemed to have died from the cocaine shortly after ingesting it. There appeared to have been no deaths caused by the drugged-up bear in real life.

Production Team

The movie will be directed and produced by Elizabeth Banks and stars many great actors, such as Keri Russel and Alden Ehrenreich. The film will be a black comedy thriller written by Jimmy Warden. Universal Pictures announced they were creating a movie inspired by a true story in December 2019.

Mark Mothersbaugh replaced Natalie Holt, who was reportedly composing the film score. It will be Mark’s second time collaborating with Elizabeth since Pitch Perfect 2.

Release Date

Universal Pictures announced that the movie will be released on the 24th of February, 2023.

Conclusion – What Happened To The Cocaine Bear?

black bear
The Cocaine Bear’s taxidermized body is displayed at the Kentucky Fun Mall.

©Josef Pittner/

The mystery of the cocaine bear didn’t end there, and even after its death, it has been making its way around Kentucky. The chief medical examiner who autopsied the bear didn’t want to waste its body since it seemed to be in pretty good shape despite ingesting a large amount of cocaine.

The bear was taxidermized, stuffed, and gifted to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Due to wildfires in the area, the bear had to be stored away. It eventually ended up in a pawn shop, where it was purchased by the country singer Waylon Jennings.

Now, the Cocaine Bear’s taxidermized body is on display at the Kentucky Fun Mall, where it currently resides.

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About the Author

I am a big animal lover that not only enjoys owning and getting to care for them, but also to write about them! I own many fish, along with shrimp, hamsters and a docile tarantula. Writing has become my passion and I am grateful to be able to write about the animals I love so dearly so that I can share my knowledge and expertise in the articles I write.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is Cocaine Bear based on a true story?

The movie is based on a true story in Kentucky; however, like most situations where a true-life story is being made into a movie, there will be some differences from the actual events.

What type of bear is the Cocaine Bear?

The bear in the movie is a 175-pound American black bear that was found with $15 million worth of cocaine in its body.

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