If you need plans for New Year’s Eve you could go to a party, a bar, or a concert. Or, you could do whatever the hell you want to a ‘possum.

Eat ’em? Beat ’em? Hoist them thirty feet in the air while shooting off fireworks? 

I’ve seen weirder. 

Animal Help Now, a wildlife nonprofit, has accumulated almost 160,000 signatures on a petition to end a North Carolina possum-free-for-all law with odd backstory, the News & Observer reported Monday. 

The law, signed in 2015, lets North Carolinians bypass any state wildlife laws that protect Virginia opossums from Dec 29-Jan 2. This includes their “capture, captivity, treatment, or release”—things that are all notably important for a certain New Year’s Eve celebration.

Brasstown, an unincorporated community in Clay County and the self proclaimed “Opossum Capital of the World,” is known for its decades-long tradition of dropping the marsupial from the roof of a convenience store. What began with a ceramic opossum evolved into shoving a live creature in a glass box and lofting it into dozens of feet into the air. Add fireworks and the local high school band and you’ve got yourself a party. 

The tradition is not with its casualties—poor old Millie Opossum tragically lost a leg after starring in the town of Andrews’ 2019 celebration. 

Animal Help Now has been fighting to end the Possum Drop ever since. PETA has also been protesting the event for years, and sued over the law in question. 

Opossum oppression is nothing new in North Carolina—in 1970, Govenor Bob Scott made headlines for trying to eat a ‘possum named Slow Poke. The proposed dinner led to people threatening to switch parties claiming “Kangaroo’s Cousin Surely Won’t Vote for Democrats.” Slow Poke was eventually pardoned and released into a park in Harnett County (where he lived out his days merrily pillaging trash bins).

The Virginia opossum became our state marsupial in 2013 (I guess with voter suppression and repealing the Racial Justice Act, Pat McCrory and General Assembly Republicans wanted to protect the rights of something). One would assume that this means the Virginia opossum, the only marsupial in North America, would be protected by our laws. However, two years later McCrory and the legislature decided that those protections shouldn’t apply for five sacred days of drunkenness, allowing Brasstown and Andrews to drop an opossum from a box for no goddamn reason.

The facts: opossums are less likely to carry rabies than any other mammal, due to their low body temperatures. Opossums are nature’s pest terminator and garbage disposal—they eat rodents, cockroaches, and ticks and also the remains of dead animals, our garbage, and rotten fruit.

Maybe its time to give the little critters a break. 

Learn how to keep opossums safe year-round here.