WASHINGTON — A popular New Year's celebration that draws thousands of tourists to the tiny North Carolina town of Brasstown for a party that ends in a "possum drop" may no longer be held there, a judge ruled.

The 18-year tradition in the town of 240 consisted of lowering the animal to the ground at midnight in a see-through cage decked out in Christmas garlands, like the ball that is dropped in New York's Times Square -- except the possum is alive.

The judge ruled that a sportsman's license held by Clay Logan, who hosts the event, allowed him to take the animal from the wild, but not to possess and exhibit it.

"I'm sort of disappointed," Logan told AFP, unsure whether an appeal would get any traction amid the opposition of animal rights activists.