Under the Dome

NC House OKs another Possum Drop bill

A possum is lowered in a plastic cage in front of an enthusiastic crowd Jan. 1, 2010, at the annual "Possum Drop" in Clay County.
A possum is lowered in a plastic cage in front of an enthusiastic crowd Jan. 1, 2010, at the annual "Possum Drop" in Clay County.

The N.C. House voted 94-18 Wednesday to suspend all state wildlife regulations related to opossums for five days each year – a move designed to combat legal challenges to an offbeat New Year’s Eve celebration in Clay County.

House Bill 574 would suspend all wildlife protections for opossums throughout the state from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2 each year. The animal rights group PETA sued last year to block a similar law that limited that exemption to Clay County, where revelers ring in the New Year by lowering a live opossum in a cage.

“With all the interest we had in the Possum Drop, we wanted to share it with the rest of the state,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Roger West, a Republican who represents Clay County.

But Democratic Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro said the bill would open the door for other actions involving the animal. She said opossums could be “tortured, burned or skinned alive by anyone in this state” during the five-day period.

Rep. Pat McElraft, an Emerald Isle Republican, said she’s an animal lover who sees no problem with the Possum Drop. “I know that we need to bring some balance to this,” she said. “We don’t need PETA coming in here and telling this community they can’t do something.”

And the opossum?

“They actually groom the little critter,” McElraft said. “He will be treated better than if he didn’t get involved in this.”

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