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North Carolina town ends traditional Possum Drop on New Year’s Eve

The town of Andrews, N.C., has said it will end its annual New Year’s Eve tradition of lowering a live opossum as a “redneck response” to the Times Square ball drop, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The lowering of the marsupial in a plexiglass box has been practiced in the town since the early 1990s but has been condemned by animal rights advocates who say the bright lights, loud crowds and fireworks are distressing to the nocturnal animal.

Opponents of the tradition have won several court victories against it, prompting Republicans in the state legislature to pass multiple laws attempting to preserve it, including a 2015 law exempting Virginia opossums from wildlife protections between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2.

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James Reid, mayor of the 1,800-person town, said he had grown tired of fielding angry calls about the tradition and told the Journal that this year’s festivities would feature a “womanless beauty pageant” and a professional wrestling match.

“Times are changing,” Reid said. “Our plan is to have an awesome party and not have any live animals involved whatsoever.”

Reid has said he also rethought the use of a live opossum after last year, when the animal developed an infection where it had been caught in a trap.

“In hindsight, maybe I made a mistake,” Reid said. The opossum, Millie, had her leg amputated but survived and now lives in Prosperity, S.C.’s Opossum’s Pouch Sanctuary.

Beth Sparks, who serves as the director of the sanctuary, suggested in future events the town should use a stuffed opossum, following the example of Tallapoosa, Ga.

“I love to see people have fun, just not at the expense of an animal,” she said.

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