Wyoming Likely Safe From ‘Cocaine Bear’ Rampage; No Recorded Incidents To Date

A Wyoming Game and Fish biologist told Cowboy State Daily there have been no recorded incidents of grizzly bears eating bricks of cocaine and going on horrific rampages, unlike a new movie called 'Cocaine Bear' which is loosely based on a true story.

Mark Heinz

December 02, 20225 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

If you’re terrified at the thought of the gruesome carnage that could be left in the wake of a bear’s cocaine-fueled rage, you probably don’t have anything to worry about in Wyoming – at least outside of movie theatres. 

At least one Wyoming outdoorsman said if the titular character of the upcoming Universal Pictures full-length project “Cocaine Bear” survives his movie debut, he’d like to see a sequel in which the hopped-up bruin munches on annoying celebrities.

Bear + Cocaine = Terror

A trailer for the film released Wednesday teases a plot that seemingly mixes elements of horror and comedy with enough nose candy to make Al Pacino’s “Scarface” character Tony Montana blush. 

In a nutshell, here’s the plot: A 500-pound black bear gets into a drug ring’s stash of cocaine, gets high by gulping entire bricks of blow and goes on a bloody rampage. 

The film is set for release Feb. 24. Its best-known stars include Keri Russel and Ray Liotta in one of his last roles. Liotta died in May at age 67. 

The trailer states the movie is “based on true events.”  

As it turns out, well, it is – sort of.

Wyoming Bears Just Say No To Drugs

“We haven‘t had any verified instances of bears ingesting controlled substances here,” Dan Thompson, large carnivore specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy State Daily. 

“I know several years ago a black bear got into a beer stand in Washington State (I think) and downed over 30 cans of Rainier,” he said. 

That bear apparently survived, he added. 

Thompson wouldn’t speculate as to what effects eating large bricks of cocaine might have on a Wyoming black bear or grizzly. However, he said the premise of the move is “pretty interesting, I guess.”

Bears Can Be Drinkers

Stories of drunken bears are fairly common, avid bear hunter Joe Kondelis of Cody told Cowboy State Daily.

“I’ve seen YouTube videos of bears that apparently got into peoples’ beer and got drunk,” said Kondelis, who is president of the American Bear Foundation.

However, he’s never seen any drunk or high bears in Wyoming. Although, with questionable characters running about the woods, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that a bear could somehow get into cocaine or some other controlled substance. 

“They (bears) will eat just about anything,” he said. “I suppose it could happen. It probably happens more than we realize.”

‘Cocaine Bear’ Gets Mixed Wyoming Reactions

While Thompson was at least somewhat interested in the film, Kondelis said that after watching the trailer he has no plans to see it. 

“It looks totally terrible, with bad acting,” he said. 

Adding that Liotta was one of his favorite actors, Kondelis said “Cocaine Bear” isn’t how he’d like to remember the movie star.

“I think I’ll keep my impression of Rayo Liotta based upon his acting in ‘Goodfellas,’” Kondelis said, in reference to the 1990 gangster epic directed by Martin Scorsese. 

While admitting that “Cocaine Bear” probably isn’t exactly Scorsese-quality cinema, noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said he’s still looking forward to it.

“Thought of a grizzly on cocaine is terrifying on every level,” he said. “But the thought of an otherwise shy, reclusive black bear on coke is absolutely awesome.”

How ‘True’ A Story?

In typical Hollywood hype fashion, the makers of “Cocaine Bear” took about as much liberty with the truth as Scarface took with his “little friend” during that classic movie’s climatic scene. 

In 1985, a known drug runner named Andrew Thorton devised an ingenious, but dangerous, method of trafficking cocaine. He and his partners parachute from planes with loads of contraband over remote areas of the southeastern United States. 

His luck ran out in September of that year when he was killed in Tennessee while trying to parachute with too much weight, according to news reports at that time. 

However, some of his stashes still remained intact, because the carcass of a bear was found in Northern Georgia amid numerous open containers of Peruvian cocaine. It was surmised the bear had died from an overdose. 

While the real-life cocaine bear didn’t prevail, Ulrich said he hopes the fictional one does. 

“If the cocaine bear survives this film, I would love to see a sequel where the bear is in rehab with a bunch of annoying celebrities, but then relapses and loses his sh** again,” Ulrich said.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter