Possums once again absent from New Year's Eve event
Posted December 29, 2014
Brasstown, N.C. — For the second straight year, the annual Possum Drop to ring in the new year in western North Carolina won't feature a live possum.
Clay Logan, a convenience store owner in the mountain community of Brasstown, created the Possum Drop as a New Year's Eve tradition for the town similar to the lowering of the crystal ball in New York's Time Square and the giant acorn in downtown Raleigh.
The event, which involves lowering an opossum in a Plexiglas box during the countdown to the new year, has repeatedly been challenged in court by animal rights advocates as cruel treatment of the nocturnal marsupial.
After a recent court ruling required Logan to obtain a license from the state Wildlife Resources Commission to use a live possum in Wednesday night's event, he notified a state judge on Dec. 20 that he had no plans to use a live possum in Brasstown's celebration.
"I assure you we revere the opossum in our celebration," Logan wrote to Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. "Our celebration promotes community values that citizens in Clay County and citizens across North Carolina, including members of the State Legislature, hold in highest esteem."
A possum appeared but wasn't dropped at the Dec. 31, 2013, event in Brasstown.
A judge two years ago ruled that the Wildlife Resources Commission didn't have the authority to grant a permit for the Possum Drop, prompting lawmakers last year to pass the so-called "Possum Right to Work Act" that allows the commission to issue a permit for the event as long as Logan meets certain requirements for trapping an opossum and keeping it in captivity.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleged that Logan violated the license last year and sought to have his license revoked this year.
Rep. Roger West, R-Clay, then introduced legislation exempting Clay County from any state wildlife regulations regarding "the capture, captivity, treatment, or release" of possums for one week each year – Dec. 26 to Jan. 2.
The bill was introduced May 20 and passed the House and the Senate within two weeks.
Super Court Judge Bryan Collins grants PETA a restraining order on Dec. 5 that eliminated the regulatory loophole West's legislation created, requiring Logan to again obtain a permit to use a live possum in this year's Possum Drop.
After receiving Logan's letter, Morrison on Monday dismissed PETA's challenge to Logan's license renewal as moot.
"There's nothing festive about tormenting a timid opossum," PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr said in a statement. "Brasstown can throw a grand party without engaging in cruelty to animals."