Playing Possum: Judge Halts New Year’s “Possum Drop” Tradition in North Carolina Town

The people of Brasstown, North Carolina have been ordered by Judge Fred Morrison that they need to stop playing possum and just kill wild animals rather than capture and release them as part of their New Year celebrations. The town has a tradition called “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” which includes a “possum drop.” The possum is not actually dropped. A possum is caught in the wild and lowered in a plexiglass cage for about ten seconds. It is then released back into the wild. Judge Morrison held essentially kill the possum and then lower it or spray paint a cat to look like a possum. A video of the brief descent is below.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had sued the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which issues the permit for the event. The judge agreed that this was not permitted under state law. They had to kill the possum — not capture and release it. Morrison rued that state law prohibits the use of wild animals for pets or entertainment: “Citizens are prohibited from capturing and using wild animals for pets or amusement. Hunters must afford wild animals the same right Patrick Henry yearned for: ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!'”

The Commission has 30 days to appeal the 18-page ruling.

What is interesting is that the state law allows for the importation of such animals for “display.”:

N.C. ADMIN. CODE tit. 2, r. 52B.0212 – IMPORTATION REQUIREMENTS: WILD ANIMALS

(a) A person shall obtain a permit from the State Veterinarian before importing any of the following animals into this State:

(1) Skunk;

(2) Fox;

(3) Raccoon;

(4) Ringtail;

(5) Bobcat (includes Lynx and other North and South American felines as cougars, jaguars, etc.);

(6) Coyote;

(7) Marten;

(8) Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula).

(b) Permits for the importation into this State of any of the animals listed in (a) of this Rule shall be issued only if the animal(s) will be used in a research institute or for public display or organized entertainment as in zoos or circuses.

Does that mean that a Virginia Possum could be imported for this brief “display”?

Here is the entire drop from last New Years:

Source: Daily Mail

48 thoughts on “Playing Possum: Judge Halts New Year’s “Possum Drop” Tradition in North Carolina Town

  1. I got one that they can pick up any day of the week. If I lieave the lid of the trash can folded back, the guy gets int there and roots around and often falls asleep. If I did not rouse him and get him out of there he would have been hauled off to the dump months ago. Perhaps he has been and knows his way back. Possums who live in a neighborhood are about as “Wild” as Wild Bill at age 90. This North Carolina Judge probably has one that would get into his trash can if he would leave the lid off. The Court of Appeals needs to consider this. My possum and my neighborhood are situated in North Carolina– possum capital of the world.

  2. Well, I went out and talked to Charlie after my last post here and he has agreed to be the possum for the next event. I just have to figure out how to get that big trash container into my car because he does not like to be without his abode for any length of time.

  3. Mr.Judge probably has more to gain to favour the possum than he realizes….

    Virginia possums are not on that list but ARE North Americas only native marsupials….so they are a rare species in this environment. They are also scavengers in a very good sense…..they clean up garbage and rout out and kill rats and cockroaches and other destructive bugs and snakes. As marsupials they house their babies in a pouch and later carry them on their backs until maturity. They are very shy and nocturnal. They don’t ‘play’ possum, it is not a game. It is a matter of life or death, it is their only defense against intent predators. It is also, IMHO, not under their control but an innate nervous system response. They have hissing and spitting but rare biting response. You really have to want to get bit by a possum…. They do not carry diseases and are the focus of current medical research because they hold the key to curing many things neurological or mediated by the immune system. They are adorable. They have opposable thumbs. They have very short life spans so they cannot ‘afford’ to be taken out of their lifestream and played with for callous caprice or stupid purpose.You can learn about them here: http://www.opossum.org/facts.htm

    It says so much about a society that the only thing it can apparently offer such beneficial creatures is cruelty, abuse, or death.

  4. woosty:

    they let it go. I see hundreds of possums all over the road. I dont think abducting a possum every 12 months is going to hurt their population. And the good people dont probe it and put an implant in it.

  5. W=^..^

    I’ve got to go with Bron on this one vis a vis rarity of the opossum. They’re pretty common, but just very adept at not being seen.

  6. I have a solution for this town. Sneak up on the judge'[s home and steal his garbage can. Put some garbage in it besides all that litter that he had and then hoist the trash can to the top of a tall tree at the site of the Possum Drop. Put some good possum stuff in there the night before the drop. A possum will find his way up there. Close the lid when ya got one. Let her drop at the annoited hour.

  7. possum life span is 2-4 years

    I don’t know how much of that time would have to be taken up in recovery from this kind of event or if it’s life would simply be altered most negatively and permanently.
    Aside from that, there is a distinct lack of compassion that is fed in a ‘ritual’ such as this. I call it cruel, you simply probably see it as ‘dispassionate’. But if you cannot see the cruelty in this then you have divorced yourselves from the element that consciously connects you to the experiences of other living things. That is your misfortune, because in truth you cannot disconnect, so by feeding your ability to exercise that which is less than compassionate, you are growing your cruelty. You may finger point if you like, ignorance is always ‘bliss’ so they say, but I am not your ‘fun’ cop. If anyone would find this ‘fun’, they should probably re-examine their source of feeling. And I haven’t the temperment to be a cop.
    Bron when someone grabs you up, puts you in a cage, surrounds you with laughing screaming people all focusing on you in a cage light by spotlights, and does not tell you why you are there you be sure and let me know how much ‘fun’ you are having.

  8. I can’t imagine any animal (or human not deranged already) comfortable being lowered in a box with loud noises and fireworks. As Woostey points out, they are very shy. Cruel treatment. Put the mayor in the box… or the chair of the celebration.

  9. WOOSTY:

    I would imagine a possum cannot understand much of anything and has a limited level of consciousness. They probably forget about the whole experience in a matter of hours or at most a few days.

    Are you going to prohibit cars from killing possums? I would guess many possums have near misses with cars and then are killed by them. Not much possum learning going on there.

    If the people were carrying swastikas and torches I would be pretty upset, but a bunch of people drinking bud and wearing T-Shirts that said “I brake for deer, beer and a$$”, I would sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

  10. The judge agreed that this was not permitted under state law. They had to kill the possum — not capture and release it. Morrison rued that state law prohibits the use of wild animals for pets or entertainment: “Citizens are prohibited from capturing and using wild animals for pets or amusement. Hunters must afford wild animals the same right Patrick Henry yearned for: ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’”
    ——————————————-
    because to continue would be an afront to the anti-cruelty laws. So in essence this Judge was assisting people to break the spirit of the anti-cruelty law….because to kill for entertainment is apparently not against the law…

  11. Bron
    1, November 15, 2012 at 9:43 am
    WOOSTY:

    I would imagine a possum cannot understand much of anything and has a limited level of consciousness. They probably forget about the whole experience in a matter of hours or at most a few days.
    —————————————————————————-
    Bron, may I suggest that you consult a wildlife vet or expert before imagining that. http://www.opossum.org/vet.htm

    And as far as the gleefull exhubrance of a crowd of ‘ a bunch of people drinking bud and wearing T-Shirts that said “I brake for deer, beer and a$$”’, well I’m all in (and not in a general sense either….) because beer, t-shirts and a$$ (preferably dancing nekkid ’round a bonfyre) usually means a pretty nifty party and there is glee there even when cruelty (conscious or un…) doesn’t make an entrance….

  12. “I am guessing that killing the possum would kill the mood” ~bron
    —————————————
    yes, murder is a mood killer…luckily moods are not what rules the day….

  13. Why would anyone in NC go out into the woods to get a possum when they are so plentiful in the towns? It would be like going out to look for a wild dog.

  14. I would walk my 2 dogs[Britanny and Golden] in the woods. Of course they would chase and sometimes catch critters. They never got close to a deer. They did get a possum once. I called them off as they tag teamed the poor critter. The possum went limp almost immediately, but it did bite, Wootsy. I separated the kill fest and we walked ~30 minutes. On the way back, I was hoping the possum had just been playing dead but he was still there. C’est la vie.

  15. First of all @Woosty’s still a Cat: you clearly have never gone to the event or know any true facts about it, because your offensive and derogatory remarks regarding the spectators are false…especially considering Mr. Clay Loga, an upstanding gentleman, explicitly states that alcohol is not permitted at all whatsoever at the event as it is intended to be a family-friendly affair.

    Second, to all of you. Please visit the offical PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) facebook page to read my open letter to them regarding their efforts to end the Possum Drop, and other comments.

    http://www.facebook.com/officialpeta

    Here is my letter:

    I think you should all be extremely ashamed of yourselves for what you’ve done to the small village of Brasstown, North Carolina. I think most people are in agreement that true cruelty to animals is unacceptable, but in this instance your organization has simply gone too far, and done far more damage than the self-righteous good you believe you’ve accomplished. A large percentage of the Brasstown/Murphy area population of Western North Carolina practices animal husbandry, many times as part of a very long family tradition. These aren’t large, cruel commercial farms yet small establishments owned by responsible environmental stewards of the land that respect and treat their animals humanely throughout their lives. This way of life, and choosing increased animal welfare and environmental responsibility is not an easy one. It is truly hard for these farmers to make a living. Furthermore, as an extremely impoverished area in general, non-farming residents are many times found to fall below the poverty line. Regardless of your views on livestock, you have likely just spent thousands in legal fees and labor as part of a petty crusade to stop a harmless annual New Year’s Eve celebration, the “Possum Drop.” This decades-long event has come to draw around 3,000 spectators, which is almost double the whole permanent population of Murphy, the largest nearby town. These tourists and citizens of the surrounding areas bring much-needed revenue to the area. The fact that a live possum is kept in a breathable, plexiglass container with a luxurious cushion for about an hour, and then lowered at the pace of cold molasses to ring in the New Year, only to be released back into the wild unharmed should in no way whatsoever be a concern to anyone. You may as well form a brigade on every highway and street corner to protest and harass any driver that mistakenly, to no fault of their own, runs over one of these majestic, beautiful, and revered creatures. Plus, statistically speaking more than one of your members is a murderer, maybe even a SERIAL KILLER due to repeat opposucides on the black top. In the economy we continue to experience, small rural towns are in more of a dire situation than ever, and you have just contributed to their demise. The thousands you’ve spent to stop such a benign non-issue event could have been donated to a local food bank for the poor, to rural education programs, or any number of charitable causes to support what SHOULD be your favorite species of animal, Homo sapiens, commonly known as humans-maybe you’ve heard of them? How many of you have ever stepped foot into a Southern Appalachian forest at night and come across a possum? Did you stop and wonder at its beauty and kindness in awe? Most likely not, because it probably made a blood-curdling hiss at you with it’s large beady eyes and scaly, hairless naked tail. It is indeed wrong to treat animals poorly (which is not the case at the Possum Drop anyhow), but it is even more wrong to act to the severe detriment of your fellow human being. In many circumstances what you have done could very well be considered a case of tort against the township of Brasstown, NC making your organization liable for damages against the village and its people. Since your organization prides itself on reporting on and protesting the transparency, or lack thereof, of various animal-related industries, I would be extremely interested to know the exact goal of your group’s actions in Brasstown, and exactly how much was spent on the case including labor and legal fees. I look forward to your response.

  16. The possum went limp almost immediately, but it did bite,
    ——————–
    well a walk in the woods is hardly a ritual slaughter and of course it bit given no other choice….

  17. DoubleYouX2
    1, November 15, 2012 at 11:15 am
    First of all @Woosty’s still a Cat: you clearly have never gone to the event or know any true facts about it, because your offensive and derogatory remarks regarding the spectators are false…especially considering Mr. Clay Loga, an upstanding gentleman, explicitly states that alcohol is not permitted at all whatsoever at the event as it is intended to be a family-friendly affair.
    —————————————————————
    Dear DoubleYouX2, (counter cross curse ad infinitum…..) pink light, protection spell, moonshine and whiskey blah blah blah……

    No, I have never been to your event. Yes, I would rather see that you continue as you are than to have to do what that Judge apparently ordered: ie, kill the possum. I would hope, that if this judgement cannot be reversed by reasonable argument in light of the fact that it impinges on animal cruelty laws, that your town adopt a different approach alltogether and utilize my link,

    http://www.thejunglestore.com/Gift-Catalog/Possum-Stuffed-Animals/Plush-Opossum-by-Fiesta-A50905?gclid=COrwn5ua0bMCFQvznAod-W8ASg

    There is a huge difference between accidently killing an animal on the road and doing what your town is doing, even if only in fun or for profit. Why don’t you invite a possum educator to your next hoe-down with some real live education animals and ‘drop’ an effigy instead.. kids LOVE education..you could call it the ‘Cruelty’ drop and whilst lifting a new understanding and enlightenment into your family friendly community, you could agree to teach that cruelty is absolutely droppable….

  18. An acquaintance of mine had a possum enter his home and take up residence in a box near his wood stove. She had her litter (if that’s what they call a bunch baby possums) and stayed there while raising them. I haven’t seen him in quite awhile so I don’t know if he still has a possum tenant.

  19. Here is what I suggest for all of NC on New Years Eve. Get a cat carrier box and print the name: Judge Morrison on the side in big letters. Fill it with tasty items that only a possum out on a trot would like. Hoist it up a tree and place it on a branch right near the trunk.
    Dribble some honey down the tree trunk. Have a rope on the door to spring shut when Fred goes in for a bite to eat and a nap. At midnight on The
    Eve lower Fred down to the ground to video recording and celebration. Post
    Fred and the culprit, the Judge, on the internet. Let
    Fred go when he lands.

  20. Who do we pity the most? Existence farmers and the remaining non-farm residents in what was once a somewhat thriving farm ares—-OR—-the oppusum who is doing quite well due to climate warming and the decline in the numbers of humans in their habitats?

    I pick humans. Are frog races forbidden too?

    Rationalization is changing America as you may have noticed. Disappeared: Small farms, Mom and Pop stores, Wholesale distributors, the corner grocery with a full line, non-chaine anything.

    Welcome to uniformity.

    The festival seems to bring in some tourist dollars, creates a sense of togetherness, and a lot of laughs, so what’s the harm.

    Maybe they should have one killed and mounted for use instead, hide it ahead of time in the plastic and cover it in a red cover to draw off at the expected hour. Sell possum dolls, both wood and soft ones. We do here with the Dala horses to great profit.
    Spice the dolls up with a good color scheme, as rat gray is not too cool.

  21. damn that was a clean shot from standing right on top of him (whilst probably stepping on his little tail….)….I don’t eat Possum, they are incredibly gamey, greasy, and if foraged in towns and cities are full of human offal…. not tasty…that is why the iron pot and beaucoup spices….
    don’tcha think there would be Possum farms run by starving unsuccessfull farmers if they were actually really tasty?

  22. I’ve had both opossum and raccoon. They are survival food. Neither are exactly a fine dining experience no matter how you dress them up. Snake, on the other hand, isn’t so bad and the comparisons to chicken on that particular meat are not too far off base. Same with frog.

  23. Woosty,

    Sounds like Vietnamese-Americans, once immigrants.
    Do you know?

    In a open air market/restaurant in Taipei, I saw a gentleman order freshly killed snake gall in an alcohol cocktail. I abstained.

    What we ate as guests at a seafood restaurant still remains a mystery? Neither fish, lobster, nor octupus.

  24. What we ate as guests at a seafood restaurant still remains a mystery? ~Id
    ———————————-
    I went on photo Safari to E.Afica and had the absolute joy of staying in some of the Aga Khans Lodges….they were amazing places….still, it was difficult to go out in the morning to take pictures of the wildlife and then come back to the lodge and find Kongoni on the buffet….

  25. I’m sure that the AGA had no problem when he was there.
    Would you do as the English and eat tinned beef?
    Did you get a rump massage after the hard day’s ride? I mean AGA Khan’s lodge! Envy consumes me.

  26. idealist707
    1, November 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm
    ——————————————-
    yup! :) and everything! ;)

  27. I had to chase Charlie out of my garbage can on wheels again this morning. He know how to pry the lid up and crawl inside. Then he eats and goes to sleep. I tip it over, ever so carefully, and out he goes very slowly.

  28. BusterCherry
    1, November 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm
    ————————————–
    Charlie’s a lucky guy…..in return he will keep your can maggot and roach free! :)

  29. I hope karma exists. That poor oppossum (or cat) will either suffer from a heart attack, or PTSD, or just be scared shitless which is not very fair either. To people who think they are pests, take an ecology class (also realize how cool they are to the be the only marsupials to live in the US!).

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