This Bear Ate 76 Pounds of Cocaine… And It Was Just The Beginning

This is the story of how one bear consumed 76 pounds of cocaine… then his taxidermied body ended up in the possession of country star Waylon Jennings. Now, the saga is becoming a movie… starring the late Ray Liotta.

Hey, it was the ’80s!

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Andrew Carter Thornton II via

On September 11, 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Carter Thornton II was found dead on a Tennessee driveway. His parachute had failed to deploy after jumping out of a small Cessna airplane, en route from Colombia. Thornton was once a paratrooper, as well as a police officer and a lawyer, before turning to a life of crime. Yep, this man did it all. And on this way out, he managed to take a 175-pound black bear down with him.

The deceased Thornton was discovered with deadly weapons and thousands of dollars worth of cash. Oh, and 77 pounds of pure cocaine on his person. The airplane, meanwhile, had been set to autopilot. It crashed into Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, about 60 miles away.

That’s where an unsuspecting black bear discovered Thornton’s duffel bag… which held an additional 75 pounds of cocaine. And that nosy bear dug right in. A true party animal. Naturally, though, he overdosed and his carcass was found in December 1985. By that point, all 40 bags of coke present on the scene were opened and empty.

Although it’s possible that, over those months, locals found the stash and helped themselves, the medical examiner who performed the bear’s autopsy has stated that its stomach was “literally packed to the brim with cocaine.” He went on, naming conditions the bear would have suffered from. These were a stroke, heart failure, cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure... “There isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that,” he told the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall. Even a big-ass bear.

Ownership by Waylon Jennings

As if that ending was not rock ‘n’ roll enough, the body of the cocaine bear (as he came to be called) ended up in the care of music legend Waylon Jennings.

According to research by the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, where cocaine bear currently rests, the medical examiner had the bear taxidermied. Despite internal trauma, his body was in good shape. He was stuffed and set for display at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area where he remained for some time before being put in storage in the early ’90s. That’s when the body disappeared.

Mysteriously, it had been sold to country star Waylon Jennings. 

Jennings bought cocaine bear at a Nashville pawn shop. He later said that the owner there had called him about the big score. Jennings, an avid collector of obscure Americana, was fascinated. Though he and the shop owner maintained that they didn’t know the bear was stolen, Jennings said he knew all about the cocaine bear’s drug-fueled past at the time of purchase.

In fact, Jennings — who was a raging cokehead himself at the time — shared a close acquaintance with Andrew Carter Thornton II, cocaine bear’s narcotics runner. That man’s name was Ron Thompson: a Kentucky grifter-turned-Vegas-socialite.

The bear was brought all the way to Las Vegas where it stayed, in Thompson’s mansion. That is, until his death in 2009.

Now, the bear has found a new home at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall. It’s become something of a mascot. A folk hero. There, he’s even earned the appropriate nickname OG.

A New Movie

Speaking to Newsweek, Ray Liotta was laughing so hard he could barely get out the words: Cocaine Bear. Liotta was clearly excited — and amused — about the concept of this upcoming film by director Elizabeth Banks, out in 2023.

Liotta plays the man who owned the cocaine, presumably Andrew Carter Thornton II, and is just one member of the thriller’s star-studded cast. Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and character actress Margo Martindale are all set to appear in Cocaine Bear.

We can’t wait.

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