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Bear Eats 15 Million Dollars of Coke, Say Headlines. But How Much Cocaine Did Cocaine Bear Eat?

It’s a wild story, but it’s (partially) true: The movie Cocaine Bear is based on, well, a real bear who ate cocaine. While the movie takes a few liberties with the story, what actually happened is just as outlandish.

Cocaine Bear’s legend is intertwined with one of Lexington’s most dramatic stories, known as the Bluegrass Conspiracy. In a nutshell, the Bluegrass Conspiracy was a scandal involving a drug ring run by Andrew Thornton II, a former cop who was killed when he jumped out of a plane on a drug-smuggling run.

A man falling without a parachute

And that’s where the cocaine comes from.

The bear? Well, today he stays with us at the Kentucky Fun Mall. Where he came from? That’s another story. And how much cocaine could Cocaine Bear eat if Cocaine Bear could eat cocaine? Let’s find out!

What’s Cocaine Bear’s story?

You can get the full Cocaine Bear story in our Journal, but this is a synopsis. Cocaine Bear was just a normal bear, living his life in the Chattahoochee National Forest…until 40 plastic containers filled with coke came dropping out of the sky. Like any reasonable bear, he investigated the bounty and went straight to work consuming as much blow as possible.

His corpse was later found by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and after the medical examiner had determined that yes, Cocaine Bear died because he consumed too much cocaine, he was taxidermied, put on display in the Chattahoochee National Park’s visitor center, and that was that…until a forest fire threatened. 

So the Park Service employees packed up some of the most important artifacts and fled the park, stashing the loot “safely” in town. Well, you know what happens when you put something somewhere you won’t forget it. That’s right, you forget it. 

And the trail went cold. 

After a few years, Cocaine Bear popped up in a pawn shop. Legend has it that Waylon Jennings himself bought the bear as a joke for a friend. After that friend died, though, all of his possessions went to auction. 

That’s where we picked up the trail. We contacted the auction house and got the name of the buyer, who, sadly, had passed away. But his widow was more than happy to confirm that the bear was there. And heck, we could have it for free if we wanted. Did we?

And that’s how Cocaine Bear came home to Lexington, Kentucky. Well, while he technically came from Tennessee, we definitely consider him part of one of the best Kentucky stories ever told. But the question remains: 

How much cocaine did the bear actually eat?

Like anyone, we were curious to see exactly how much of the stuff the bear actually ate, and, of course, how much would it cost? So we did a completely unqualified, 0% peer-reviewed study to find out. 

A bear with a comically huge pile of cocaine

How much is $15 million of coke? 

In 1985, $15 million in cocaine was 75 pounds, the amount that was in the duffel bag that was dropped by Thornton. That’s about $200,000 per pound. But we’ve got good news for those who like to party: The price has gone way down. In 2020, CBP seized about 71 pounds of cocaine with a reported street value of just $800,000. That’s a little over $11,000 per pound. So, $15 million dollars of cocaine in today’s market? A whopping 1,360 pounds. 

What do bears usually eat?

A typical bear’s diet does not include massive amounts of cocaine. While all bears are of the order Carnivora, they are actually omnivores that eat plants, insects, fish, and animals. In fact, plant foods make up the majority of a bear’s diet – sometimes as much as 90%. However, fish and meat are important sources of essential protein and fat. Some of the things that bears eat seem crazy to us, but they’re pretty normal for bears. For example, you might not think of a beaver as being part of a bear’s diet, but they are. Who knew? (Aside from the beavers. Sorry, y’all.)

How much can bears eat? 

Bears can put away a lot of food. And cocaine, it turns out. Just to stay healthy, an American black bear has to eat between 11 and 18 pounds of food a day. The exact amount a bear eats every day is, obviously, dependent on how calorie-rich the foods it’s consuming are. Cocaine is said to be free of calories, so let’s assume the bear pounded down as much as possible and put the number at 18 pounds. 

How much cocaine is fatal to a bear?

Well, there’s no one good answer to that, but the medical examiner who conducted the bear’s necropsy said that Cocaine Bear had absorbed just 3-4 grams of coke — so about an 8-ball. We find that surprising for such a large animal; we assumed that tolerance just went up with weight. The more you know! 

Pablo Escobear with a hat and chain

How much was the cocaine that Cocaine Bear ate worth today?

Since there’s only one person who knows exactly how much blow this bear actually ate (and we quote, “Its stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine”), we get the fun job of speculating exactly how much was in there. And yeah, of course we’re going to take it to the max. So, if Cocaine Bear ate 18 pounds, the bear ate cocaine worth about $200,000 in today’s dollars. 

But in the ‘80s? $3.6 million dollars. $3.6 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF COKE.

Myth: Busted!

While the story is that Cocaine Bear ate $15 million of cocaine, sadly, it’s just not true. That 75 pounds of cocaine was in the duffel bag that was found with Andrew Thornton II, not the bear. The bear certainly had the opportunity, though: There were 40 plastic containers found with the bear, and each is said to have contained a kilogram of coke, which works out to be about 88 pounds of coke in total. 

However:

If the question is not whether Cocaine Bear ate $15 million of coke, but whether a bear could hypothetically consume 75 pounds of cocaine, the answer is “Maybe!” During Fat Bear season (the time of year when bears are bulking up for hibernation), an adult male coastal brown bear may put away between 80 and 90 pounds of food a day. So, technically the answer is “Yes”, but he’d have to eat really, really fast — remember, bears and cocaine just don’t mix. 

The Kentucky Fun Mall: Home of Cocaine Bear

If you got this far, we hope you feel smarter. After all, Cocaine Bear and cool Kentucky facts are kind of our bread and butter at the Kentucky Fun Mall. And now that you know the story of Cocaine Bear, why not come visit him right here in Lexington, Kentucky?

We like to say: Come to see the real Cocaine Bear, but stay for the Kentucky-themed awesomeness. The Fun Mall is so much more than all of our amazing Cocaine Bear merch — we’re dedicated to everything that makes Kentucky amazing, from the people and places to the things and stuff. 

After you take your selfies with the Bear himself, have a wander around this old parachute factory. There’s memorabilia and fun facts about Kentucky all over the place — honestly, other shops wish they were as fun as us. We celebrate the weird and wild, and we pride ourselves on providing products that make people say, “What in the SAM HILL is that crazy gewgaw…I need it RIGHT NOW!” 

We may not have $15 million of cocaine, but we do have a taxidermied bear that would love to tell you all about the one time he was out walking through the woods. Come on down to the Fun Mall, or visit our online shop and find out why we think Kentucky kicks ass. 

COCAINE BEAR GEAR