cocaine facts, News

Yes, the "cocaine bear" did exist. Here's the story.

cocaine bear

Almost 40 years after the discovery of a 175kg black bear ingesting cocaine in a Georgia forest, the drug has inspired a film.

It all began, as you might imagine, in the 1980s. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced in December 1985 that a 175-kilogram black bear had "died of a cocaine overdose after discovering a batch of drugs", according to a three-sentence United Press International article in the New York Times.

cocaine bear news

"The cocaine was reportedly dropped from a plane piloted by Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug trafficker who died on September 11 in Knoxville, Tennessee, because he was carrying too heavy a load during his parachute jump," reports U.P.I.. "The bureau said the bear was found Friday in north Georgia among 40 open plastic containers containing traces of cocaine.

The bear was found dead in the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia, just south of the Tennessee border.

"All that's left are bones and a large skin," Gary Garner of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Associated Press.

Dr. Kenneth Alonso, the state's chief medical examiner at the time, said after an autopsy in December 1985 that the bear had absorbed three or four grams of cocaine into his bloodstream, although he may have eaten more, the Associated Press reported that month.

Today, that same bear is reportedly on display in Lexington, Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall. The mall reported in an August 2015 blog post that employees wanted to know what happened to the bear and discovered it had been stuffed. The blog states that the stuffed bear belonged to country singer Waylon Jennings, who kept it in his Las Vegas home before it was delivered to the store. (The New York Times was unable to independently confirm this information).

What happened to the bear in the final days, or hours, after his cocaine consumption is a mystery, but where the cocaine came from is not.

Mr. Thornton was a known drug dealer and former police officer. He was found dead on the morning of September 11, 1985, in the backyard of a house in Knoxville, Tennessee, wearing a parachute and Gucci loafers. He also possessed several weapons and a bag containing about 35 kilograms of cocaine, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

A key in Mr. Thornton's pocket matched the tail number of a plane wreck found in Clay County, North Carolina, and given Mr. Thornton's history of drug trafficking, investigators assumed there were other quantities of cocaine nearby, the News Sentinel reported. Investigators searched the area and found more than 300 pounds of cocaine during a search that lasted several months.

They also found the bear dead.

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