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Yes, the viral story of 'Cocaine Bear' is true

"Cocaine Bear" is very much real– just not as violent as he appears in the movie. The bear died quickly after eating cocaine.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. — One of the next movies from Universal sounds insane: a bear eats pounds of cocaine and goes on a murderous rampage through the hills of north Georgia.

The trailer is going viral as the movie is set to debut on Friday, Feb. 24. The movie claims it's based on true events. But is there any truth to it? Let's verify.


Is 'Cocaine Bear' real? 


The Associated Press

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation 

Kentucky for Kentucky

11Alive's archives


Yes, we can verify, "Cocaine Bear" is very much real – just not as violent as he appears in the movie. The bear died quickly after eating cocaine. 

This is true.


Let's start from the beginning. It began with a drug smuggling operation gone bad – leaving a string of clues and cocaine across Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. 

According to 11Alive's previous coverage from 1985 and the Associated Press, a Kentucky narcotics investigator named Andrew Thornton was smuggling hundreds of pounds of cocaine on board a tiny plane– when it started to go down.

Thornton bailed out and ultimately died from trying to carry 77 pounds of cocaine with him. 

His body was found in Knoxville, Tennessee, his plane was discovered in North Carolina, and his cocaine and other cargo were picked up in Butts County and Fannin County, Georgia. 

Here's where it gets weird. That mess of cocaine in Fannin County was found torn up and scattered along a hillside in Blue Ridge. A lot of it was found next to the skin and bones of a massive bear. 

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, at the time they believed the bear ate millions of dollars worth of that cocaine. 

"The bear probably got an initial rush and perhaps became disoriented and somewhat confused because of the sensation but cocaine acts fairly rapidly in the central nervous system and in large quantities, depresses the heart," officials said at the time. 

According to its current owners at the store called Kentucky for Kentucky, someone taxidermied the bear and it swapped hands several times– traveling the country. Eventually, that store got hold of it and displayed it in the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington. It's still there currently and visitors can even take pictures with it. 

>>Watch 11Alive video from our archives:

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