'Possum drop' to ring in the new year in mountain town, despite PETA protests

RALEIGH -- It starts with capturing a possum.

Next, on New Year’s Eve, the possum is slowly lowered in a plastic cage, as spectators watch and count down the seconds to midnight.

Then the possum is set free.

Happy New Year!

This is the “possum drop,” an annual Brasstown, N.C., tradition that locals liken to the Times Square ball drop in New York City. It’s so popular in the North Carolina mountain town that a 30-minute documentary about it, “The Possum Drop,” was released over the summer.

But in 2011, the possum drop got the attention of the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Although locals say the event is just tradition, PETA calls it inhumane.

Last year, a live possum was not permitted at the possum drop, Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, told the Los Angeles Times.

A judge had ruled that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission couldn’t issue a permit for the event unless there was a change in law to allow it to do so.

In March, state lawmakers passed a law that permits “the taking and holding in captivity of a wild animal by a licensed sportsman for use of display in an annual, seasonal or cultural event, so long as the animal is captured from the wild and returned to the wild at or near the area where it was captured.”

PETA filed a lawsuit in October challenging wildlife commission's authority to issue a license.

And this week, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour sided with state wildlife regulators and ruled the event could continue -- live possum and all.

The wildlive commission issued a permit to event organizer Clay Logan, 65, who owns Clay's Corner general store. He boasts on the shop’s website that the town, which he wrote has a population of 240 -- people, not possums -- is the "opossum capital of the world."

For more on this LA Times story, click here.