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Possum Drop will continue

By Patrick Gannon
pgannon@newsobserver.com

The organizer of the Possum Drop New Year’s Eve celebration in Brasstown said Monday that he and a couple of friends likely would head out Thursday or Friday to catch an opossum to use in the controversial annual event.

“We’ll just take a dog and two or three fellas and we’ll have a good time,” said Clay Logan, the 67-year-old store owner behind the Possum Drop, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the mountain town in North Carolina’s far southwestern corner. Logan said the dog would chase an opossum up a tree, and the hunters would shake it down, or, if it gets too high, climb up after it.

The hunt can go on because of Wake County Superior Judge Allen Baddour’s decision Monday to allow Logan to capture and keep the live animal for the event, during which the opossum will be lowered in a specially made box to ring in the new year.

The ruling came despite an attempt by the animal welfare organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to prohibit the animal’s capture. “I’m glad that common sense finally prevailed in this thing,” Logan said. “Common is the most unused sense of all the senses.”

Baddour on Monday heard arguments from attorneys for PETA and state wildlife regulators who issued Logan a captivity license for an opossum late last week. The license allows Logan to keep an animal for the event provided that he complies with a number of conditions.

Martina Bernstein, a PETA attorney, said Logan wasn’t qualified to properly care for an opossum in captivity. She also described in court a number of ailments an opossum could suffer or die from as a result of captivity and the loud noises, flashing lights, large crowd and “jostling” during the drop.

Tamara Zmuda, an assistant attorney general representing the wildlife agency, countered that the license was legally issued and that PETA would have recourse if permit conditions aren’t met.

The license issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission requires that the opossum be kept in a box 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall that must be properly ventilated and cleaned regularly. “That’s a motel for a possum,” Logan said.

Also, upon capture, the opossum must be evaluated by a licensed veterinarian and its diet should mimic that of a wild opossum. Logan said he would feed it apples, oranges, cat food and water, among other things.

Last year, a judge ruled the Wildlife Resources Commission couldn’t issue a permit for Logan’s event unless there was a change in law to allow it to do so. In March, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing licensed sportsmen to hold animals for display as long as they are returned to the wild when the event is over. Logan said he would relinquish the opossum to wildlife officers soon after the event.

In October, PETA filed a lawsuit challenging the WRC’s authority to issue a license or permit for the activity. The case continues.

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