What’s Up With Cocaine Bear? Yes, It’s Real

If you haven’t heard of Cocaine Bear (2023) kicking around on the internet, you have now. You might think it’s just one of those… weird things people make, because why not? The marketing does really want you to love it as your new favorite cult classic movie, which seems like it’s something that’s super hard to manufacture. That’s probably where all the comparisons to Snakes on a Plane (2006) come from. Either way, the vibe is difficult to manufacture because, you know, the point of a cult classic is that it didn’t really want to be a cult classic to begin with. Anyway, we’re not really here to debate the merits of being a cult classic, we’re more focused on the big words on the poster that say “inspired by a true story.” So what’s up with Cocaine Bear?

Pablo Eskobear

No, really, “Cocaine Bear” (the real one, not the movie, oh, also it’s a real thing) is sometimes also called Pablo Eskobear or “Escobear.” 

So we know that the Cocaine Bear was in fact a real bear; specifically, the Cocaine Bear was a 175 pound black bear. You can probably… guess how Cocaine Bear got their name. Cocaine Bear was discovered dead on the 23rd of December, 1985 by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Our new favorite bear had died of a cocaine overdose. How much cocaine does it take to put down a bear? Well probably less than what Cocaine Bear took, but definitely at least that much. Cocaine Bear was discovered with 75 pounds (34 kilos) of coke, which is… A lot. 

It was estimated that Cocaine Bear had only absorbed like 3 to 4 grams of cocaine into the bloodstream by the time of death, though. That’s significantly less interesting than 34 kilos. 

How Expensive Is One Cocaine Bear?

Cocaine prices differ depending on who you are, where you are, and who you ask. A kilogram of cocaine (it’s normally measured in kg, but that’s about 2.2 pounds) can be somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000 by the time it makes it to a drug dealer in North America. Depending on purity, it can go up to $150,000. This all comes from about $400 to $500 worth of coca leaf, which can be sold to traffickers for about $900 per kilogram. It’s only when the stuff becomes cocaine does the value skyrocket to the tens of thousands of dollars. This is largely owed to how cocaine can be cut (it’s not like you’re buying bricks of pure cocaine on the street), allowing sellers to get more mileage out of a single kilogram. Plus, cartels exert a lot of control over the market. They can basically set the price to whatever they want, kind of like how your internet service provider can charge whatever they want because they know they have a regional monopoly. Except it’s drugs.

Regional prices for cocaine in the US range quite widely, though cocaine prices dropped pretty drastically from $600 per gram to less than $200 per gram between the 1980s and 1990s. In 2019 the US reported that a gram of street cocaine was about $200 per gram. If we go with the $70,000 figure for a kilogram of cocaine, Cocaine Bear had $2,380,000 of cocaine just lying around in their stomach. Using the $200 per gram figure for street cocaine values it at about $6.8 million, but given that Cocaine Bear intercepted its payload from a smuggler and not just by buying it off the street, the $2.4 million figure seems more accurate. 

Who Was Cocaine Bear’s Dealer?

Cocaine Bear got its 34 kilogram payload from a guy named Andrew C. Thornton II, who was the head of a drug smuggling ring based in Kentucky called “The Company.”

On September 11, 1985 Thornton was flying a bunch of cocaine out of Georgia, but ended up having to drop a bunch of it into the forests of Knoxville, Tennessee before bailing. Apparently, his parachute failed to deploy and that’s how he died. Cocaine Bear was found near the border between Tennessee and Georgia, and it’s widely understood that Thronton’s supply is what Cocaine Bear found. 

In case you were wondering, you can find Cocaine Bear taxidermied in Kentucky. 

See if you know your different kinds of bears here. Bonus points if you find the cocaine one?