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Pablo EskoBear: The Real Story of Bear on Cocaine Binge That Inspired the Hollywood Movie

Bear found cocaine dumped from a plane in a forest by a notorious drug smuggler.

The new movie Cocaine Bear might seem to have been inspired by a far-fetched meme, but its source is a true story. Cocaine Bear, a dark comedy directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich and the late Ray Liotta, hits theaters soon. It's the story of a drug-addled bear that terrorizes locals and goes on a killing spree.

While the real-life bear didn't hurt anyone but himself, the events surrounding him are just as wild. In reality, the bear overdosed on cocaine dumped from a plane in a forest in Georgia by a notorious drug smuggler. Read on to learn more about this incredible story that includes a drug smuggling plane, a taxidermist, a country music star, and a Hollywood finale.

Heist Goes Very Wrong

Universal Pictures

In 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton was transporting cocaine from Colombia to the US. He dropped packages from a private plane over Georgia before jumping after them. Unfortunately, he got tangled up in the parachute and fell to his death. 

Thornton was wearing Gucci loafers, several weapons, and a bulletproof vest when he was discovered. He was also in possession of about 77 pounds of cocaine (today's value: $14 million). The story gets weirder, and that's where the bear comes in.

Bear Found With Cocaine Packets

Universal Pictures

Soon after, a 176-pound black bear was found dead in Georgia's Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Scattered around its body were 40 opened plastic containers that bore traces of cocaine. The bear had apparently OD'd after using some of Thornton's stash.

Dr. Kenneth Alonso, the state's chief medical examiner, performed a necropsy in December 1985. He determined the bear had absorbed three or four grams of cocaine into its bloodstream, although it may have consumed more, the Associated Press reported.

Afterlife Includes Being Acquired By Celebrity


After that, the bear went on a circuitous journey. After being stuffed by a taxidermist, it was displayed in the visitor center of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. In the early '90s, it was put in storage and was acquired by country music singer Waylon Jennings, who reportedly gave it to a friend in Las Vegas. 

After Jennings died, the bear ended up in a traditional Chinese medicine store before making it to Kentucky for the Kentucky Fun Mall gift shop in Lexington, where it sits today. 

"We Are Super-Excited" About Movie

Universal Pictures

Customers come from around the world to have their picture taken with the bear, Anne Livengood, the shop's sales and marketing director, told the UK Times"I hope the movie does really well," she said. "We love the trailer. A bunch of the cast and crew bought our Cocaine Bear merch. You can see Elizabeth Banks sporting our hat in her social media posts. We are super-excited about it."

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Photo Ops Available

Kentucky For Kentucky/Facebook

The bear is nicknamed Pablo EskoBear. He boasts a Christmas-themed backdrop at the moment, the Times reports. "He's got a whole winter wonderland photo booth set up around him so that people can come in and take their photos with Cocaine Bear and maybe make that their holiday cards and send it out to all their loved ones," said Livengood.

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