Local News

Judge's ruling threatens New Year's Eve possum drop

Posted November 13, 2012

— A North Carolina mountain town's tradition of lowering a caged possum to celebrate New Year's Eve could be in jeopardy following a judge's ruling.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison ruled Tuesday that the state Wildlife Resources Commission doesn't have the power to grant a special permit for Brasstown's annual Possum Drop. The agency must get the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing such permits, or the commission needs to change its rules, the judge said.

Clay Logan, who started the event 20 years ago and catches each animal used, has 30 days to appeal Morrison's ruling – and possibly get a stay until the case can be heard. If not, the Possum Drop will likely be off this Dec. 31.

Despite the name, no possum is dropped at the event, which attracts thousands to the tiny hamlet near the state's western tip. Rather, the captive critter is suspended in a see-through box covered with holiday tinsel and gently lowered to the ground at midnight.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed suit to stop the event, calling it illegal and cruel. The organization argued that the stress from the event could kill the possum, which is a timid animal.

Logan has a license to catch animals, but Wildlife Resources Commission rules prevent wildlife from remaining in captivity unless they are being rehabilitated after injury. He traditionally has obtained a special permit from the commission to keep a possum until after the New Year's Eve event, when the animal is released back into the wild.

"Nothing in the statutes and regulations gives WRC officials discretion to waive mandatory permitting requirements or to invent 'special' permits for activities that 'do not fit' into ... the existing permitting regulations," Morrison wrote in his ruling.

"Citizens are prohibited from capturing and using wild animals for pets or amusement," he concluded. "Hunters must afford wild animals the same right Patrick Henry yearned for: 'Give me liberty, or give me death!'"

"Compassionate citizens can now look forward to a kinder celebration at Clay's Corner this New Year's Eve," PETA spokesman David Perle said.

100 Comments

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  • Riptide12 Nov 15, 10:46 a.m.

    No "JohnFlob" PETA and the judge are not embarrassing to NC, it is the town that uses a possum during a New Years celebration that is an embarrassment to NC. What an ignorant way to celebrate!

  • GravyPig Nov 14, 5:34 p.m.

    "Despite the name, no possum is dropped at the event, which attracts thousands to the tiny hamlet near the state's western tip. Rather, the captive critter is suspended in a see-through box covered with holiday tinsel and gently lowered to the ground at midnight."

    Oh, so they don't drop it they lower it gently. That makes all the difference in the world.

  • JohnFLob Nov 14, 11:25 a.m.

    Another 'gold star' for North Carolina.

    Thanks to P.E.T.A. and this judge we are once again embarrassed on the front page at Drudge.

  • JohnFLob Nov 14, 11:17 a.m.

    JohnnyMcRonny November 13, 2012 1:11 p.m.
    What a bunch of heartless sods. It's oh-so funny, isn't it. How would you feel if it was your pet dog/cat that was trapped and stuck in a box for entertainment or killed on the road. Would you be laughing then? I doubt it. The lack of respect shown for other animals is saddening.

    For your information, over the years my family has lost several pets that were hit and killed on public roads.

    This is insane to get so worked up over an opossum. It is easy to laugh at the ridiculous actions of P.E.T.A. and the judge in this case.

  • kermit60 Nov 14, 10:23 a.m.

    So what is the difference between this and the Ashboro Zoo? Here it is only held for a little while and then released. At the zoo they spend there entire life in a animal prison called a zoo and are yelled at and harassed all day long by humans who want to see them. With all the resources available on line now maybe we don't need the zoo either.

  • Lightfoot3 Nov 14, 8:15 a.m.

    I think PETA goes overboard on quite a few issues. And while I think they are putting too much effort into this one, given the more serious cases they could be addressing, they nevertheless have a point. I don't think the opossum is harmed, but still don't think they should be hauling it up and down the tree in come weird ceremony.


    "Using a stuffed animal in such a manner simply glorifies the using of a real one, and will encourage others to use real ones in such a manner." - Hans


    Are you afraid that cities across the nation will all start having 'possum drops?


    "Perhaps you know what would happen should a possum encounter a cat? or dog?" - Damien Thorne


    Nothing much. It's an opossum, not a wolverine. I, and my pets, have encountered tons of them over the years. They're pretty docil, even in defense mode.

  • Hans Nov 13, 5:43 p.m.

    "I also agree with the suggestion that kids decorate stuffed animals and the winning look gets to be dropped. Using a live animal is cruel to the animals." - sunneyone2

    Why? Using a stuffed animal in such a manner simply glorifies the using of a real one, and will encourage others to use real ones in such a manner.

  • countymounty100 Nov 13, 5:25 p.m.

    You folks need to get your wording right. There is a difference between the words "dropped" and "lowered". Now, which one did the article reference?

  • batcave Nov 13, 5:09 p.m.

    Why? They are for ethical treatment not vegetarianism

    Grand Union

    I know you are not talking about PETA, they are all about a vegan diet. Animals are not to be worn or eaten or used for science or entertainment. WRONG

  • sunneyone2 Nov 13, 5:09 p.m.

    Animals aren't for decoration. I agree with the judge's decision here. I also agree with the suggestion that kids decorate stuffed animals and the winning look gets to be dropped.
    Using a live animal is cruel to the animals.

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