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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — When thinking about Kentucky’s legendary figures, who comes to mind? It could be legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, singer Loretta Lynn, or maybe actor George Clooney.

All figures are heralded in their own way, but how about the Cocaine Bear?

According to RoadsideAmerica, Cocaine Bear’s story starts in 1985 when a drug smuggler and son of a wealthy Lexington horse-breeding family, Andrew Carter Thornton II, was found dead in a driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee. Investigators found that Thornton fell to his death when he bailed out of a plane while attempting to smuggle duffel bags full of cocaine.

Three months later, a bear was found dead in the woods near the Tennessee-Georgia line. Next to the bear’s body was a bag of cocaine, completely empty. The bear died after ingesting an estimated 40 kilos of cocaine that Thornton planned on smuggling.

Cocaine Bear was preserved and passed on through a few different hands, including singer-songwriter Waylon Jennings, before being bought and put on display in the Kentucky for Kentucky store in Lexington.


Now, the legend of the cocaine-eating bear is set to hit the big screen in a thriller titled “Cocaine Bear” to be released on Feb. 24, 2023.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, “The film finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood.”

The Kentucky for Kentucky store where Cocaine Bear is displayed sells a wide variety of bear-inspired merchandise, with some items even dubbing him the “Ultimate Party Animal.”