In 1985, Andrew Thornton, a former narcotics-officer-turned-drug-kingpin from Kentucky, who had been flying a drug route from Colombia to the USA, abandoned his aeroplane mid-flight and dropped off 40 plastic containers full of cocaine in Chattahoochee National Forest, northern Georgia. The plane crashed 60 miles away and Thornton fell to his death onto a driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee, as his parachute didn’t open.
Police started to trace his route back through the forest, expecting to find a cache of drugs worth $15 million, but found instead the 40 open containers and a dead 175-pound American black bear. The chief medical examiner at the Georgia State Crime Lab explained that the bear’s stomach was “literally packed to the brim with cocaine,” though he estimated the bear had ingested only 3 to 4 grams of the substance into its bloodstream at the time of its death. According to him, the death occurs due to “a cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure and a stroke” resulting from absorption of the cocaine.
The bear was stuffed and soon became known as “Pablo Escobear” or simply “Cocaine Bear.” His remains are now exhibited in the Kentucky Fun Mall.
An American thriller film titled Cocaine Bear, to be released in 2022 by Universal Pictures and directed by Elizabeth Banks, is dedicated to the bear’s story.