This year has certainly started off with a bang, at least for one North Carolina town that was accustomed to ringing in the new year by dropping a certain marsupial pest at midnight instead of the usual glittering ball celebrated in Times Square. Oddly enough, I just learned of the tradition of dropping an opossum at the stroke of midnight not long ago. Now, that exact practice has recently received a massive backlash from animal rights activists, forcing the town to change their tradition slightly. They can still drop an opossum at midnight on the New Year, but it now must be a stuffed one instead of a live one.
The town of Andrews, North Carolina, one of many mountain communities that has practiced the cherished tradition of the opossum drop for decades, received a massive amount of criticism when they happened to choose an injured opossum to use in the celebration this year. Now, contrary to its title, the opossum isn’t actually dropped at midnight, but rather slowly lowered inside a plexiglass box. So, the opossum was not injured in the actual opossum drop, but was likely injured when it was cornered by a farmer’s dogs prior to its being chosen as this year’s opossum for the opossum drop. The farmer had called the organizer of the event and asked if they would like to use the opossum he had just found his dogs cornering on his property. Not realizing the opossum was injured, they decided to use the animal, since it would have likely died on the farm anyways if it hadn’t been chosen to be used in this year’s celebration.
Animal rights activists have been trying to get the tradition of the opossum drop to be changed for years, and the use of the injured animal in this year’s celebration was simply the last straw. Beth Sparks, a co-director of the Opossum’s Pouch Sanctuary, Rescue and Rehabilitation, is now caring for the opossum at her small sanctuary. The opossum apparently arrived with a serious injury to one of its legs, which then had to be amputated, that likely happened while the animal was being trapped. When she took in the opossum and began posting pictures of the animal on social media the reaction was not good, and the backlash has now forced the tradition to be changed so that it no longer involves the use of live animals. Sparks commented, “They advertise that no ‘possum is harmed for the event, but even healthy ones are damaged physically by stress caused by the loud noises.” The opossum drop will be using a stuffed opossum for the celebration from here on out.
Have you ever seen this tradition or another similar one performed? What was your reaction to it?