The Live ‘Possum Returns To Brasstown

Clay Logan puts on a New Year’s Eve show every year that is appreciated by all. All, that is, except the so-called animal rights activists at PETA. I’ve written about the Possum Drop in the past and PETA’s legal machinations to prevent the use of a live opossum. With New Year’s Eve almost upon us, I thought it was time for an update.

It appears that PETA is finally being stymied in its efforts to prevent a live opossum from being used in the Possum Drop. A bill that was passed this year by the North Carolina General Assembly removed the opossum from state wildlife laws and regulations during the period between December 29th and January 2nd. The bill sponsored by Rep. Roger West (R-Cherokee) was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) back in June.

PETA went to Superior Court in Wake County to seek a preliminary injunction to stop the event. Judge James Roberson turned down their request in an order issued on December 14th.

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Organizers of this year’s New Year’s Eve ‘possum drop in Brasstown can use a live animal, a judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge James Roberson this week turned down a request for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented use of a real opossum for the annual event in western Clay County.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing over a law the General Assembly passed earlier this year that suspends enforcement of state wildlife rules regarding opossums a few days before and after New Year’s Eve. PETA says the law, sponsored by Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee, is unconstitutional because it is special treatment for ‘possum drop organizers and makes it unclear what laws apply to people who work to return injured wildlife to their natural habitat.

Roberson wrote in an order filed Dec. 14 in Wake County, where the case is being heard, that PETA and other plaintiffs “have not shown the likelihood of success on the merits of the claims asserted in” their lawsuit so the request for an injunction should be denied. The decision still allows the lawsuit to go forward.

Undoubtedly this ruling will be appealed by PETA. They have another appeal pending before the NC Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of a previous law that exempted only Clay County from wildlife regulations during the period before and after New Year’s Eve.

Nonetheless, baring any last minute court orders, the event is on and Clay Logan is happy about it.

“I’m tickled. My plan’s just to have a live possum, carry on like we used to and have a good time,” said Clay Logan, event organizer and owner of Clay’s Corner store, in Clay County.

Despite all the claims of cruelty by PETA, I think if I were an opossum, I’d prefer to be in that plexiglass container being feed treats when you consider the alternative. The alternative being where most people see opossums – squished dead on the road.

SB 60 – The Opossum Right-to-Work Act

If a bill passes the North Carolina General Assembly, the Possum Drop in Brasstown will be able to resume the New Year’s Eve tradition with a real, live opossum. Senators Jim Davis (R-Macon) and Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) have are the co-primary sponsors of SB 60. The bill is entitled “The Opossum Right-to-Work Act”.

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

With North Carolina’s legislature taking up a bill involving the fate of captive marsupials, a pair of lawmakers figured they might as well have some fun.

The “Opossum Right-to-Work Act” introduced Wednesday in the state Senate is identical to a House bill introduced earlier this week—except for the tongue-in-cheek title.

The measure gives the state Wildlife Resources Commission the explicit authority to permit the organizer of a New Year’s Eve Possum Drop to display a wild-caught animal. By tradition, the trapped opossum is suspended in a tinsel-covered box and gently lowered to the ground at midnight, then released.

Sen. Davis who represents that part of North Carolina said the Possum Drop was important to his constituents. The bill is designed to “to get these people (PETA) off their backs.”

The bill would rewrite sections of GS 113-272.5(a) and GS G.S. 113-274(c) to allow the Wildlife Resources Commission to issue permits to temporarily allow the possession of wild animals or wild birds for “scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes”.

PETA Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

Brasstown, North Carolina is a small little town in the far southwestern corner of the state. It is home to the John C. Campbell Folk School where they teach everything from woodworking to quilting to story-telling.

The Cherokee County town is also home to a quaint New Year’s Eve tradition called the Possum Drop. Held at Clay’s Corner, the Possum Drop actually involves the lowering -not dropping -of a live possum (oppossum, if you are a stickler for spelling) starting around 10pm. It is Brasstown’s answer to the dropping of the ball in Times Square. This event is unique enough to have caught the eye of CBS’s Bill Geist who did a story on it for CBS Sunday Morning.

Unfortunately, it has also caught the attention of the busybodies at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They are now taking the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to court for issuing a permit to the organizer of the Possum Drop, Clay Logan.


PETA attorney Martina Bernstein said possums are timid animals and can actually die from the stress. She likened the New Year’s Eve event to torture for the animal.

“It is something you wouldn’t do to your own dog or cat – have them hoisted up on a Plexiglas contraption for several hours with fireworks going off you know swinging in in the cold air,” Bernstein said.

She argued that the state permit for the event was improperly issued because North Carolina law doesn’t allow wild animals to be kept captive unless it’s for rehabilitation – and that requires a captive animal permit.

“There are very strict rules for that. It’s not a free-for-all,” she said. “But apparently the agency believes, if you don’t fit into these permits, we’re just going to make up something.”

Norman Young, the assistant attorney general representing the Wildlife Resources Commission, said the permit was legal. New Year’s Eve falls during possum season in the state, so Logan’s hunting license allows him to trap one for the drop, he said.

“(This is) an event that does not show any particular harm to the opossum and I might add doesn’t meet the elements of the animal cruelty statute,” Young said.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. refused the state’s motion for the case to be dismissed which means that the case will live for another month.

The last time that PETA threatened a suit over this Mr. Logan resorted to using a roadkill ‘possum which didn’t thrill the New Year’s Eve revelers. If PETA does win, the state’s assistant attorney general says it would be entirely legal for Mr. Logan to kill a oppossum, keep it in his freezer, and then put the frozen carcass in the plexiglass box on New Year’s Eve.

My suggestion to PETA and one that I think at least the men in the Brasstown community would appreciate is for them to volunteer one of their brainless – but attractive – starlet backers to be put in the box and lowered on New Year’s Eve.  Naked, of course, since wearing any fur would be against their principles which we couldn’t have.