At the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Carroll County Humane Society will trap wild animals living in the vicinity of a quarantined Marston farm beginning Monday in order to test them for a potentially deadly parasite, officials said yesterday.
Raccoons, possums, foxes and skunks, all of which may feed on carcasses, will be captured in box traps, euthanized and tested for "trichinella spiralis" to determine if pigs escaping from the farm infected surrounding wildlife.
"We are only interested in wild animals, and those will be in limited numbers," said Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff, the Carroll humane society director. "We will be sampling the perimeter of the farm and have permission from those property owners to do so."
The 112-acre farm, owned by Carroll L. Schisler Sr., has been quarantined for the past year, after a pig tested positive for trichinosis and died. Feral pigs, which are more susceptible to the infection, moved freely on and off the Schislers' farm, officials said.
Those that were trapped in surrounding areas after the quarantine was imposed all tested positive for the parasitic disease that has become rare in the United States, officials said. Trichinosis is more common in developing countries, where pigs are commonly fed raw garbage.
"If wild animals have this disease, there is a real possibility it could be re-introduced to pigs back at the farm," Ratliff said.
For now, the farm remains under a swine quarantine that forbids pigs, dead or alive, from being brought onto or taken off the property.
Schisler and his son, Carroll L. Schisler Jr., face numerous charges, ranging from animal cruelty to water pollution and illegally allowing the disposal of solid waste, including dead animals.
Several photos, obtained by The Sun last year, showed farm pigs feeding on carcasses.
USDA officials had considered hiring trappers, who would use painful leg-holds to capture the wildlife, until the humane society volunteered its animal control officers.
"We will use box traps, which are more humane, and check those twice a day," Ratliff said.
The box traps, baited with food, lure an animal inside and then the door shuts. Inspectors will release any domestic pets that are caught, Ratliff said.
"We will make this as humane as possible," she said.
Anyone tampering with the traps could face a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail, she said.
The USDA will test the animal specimens at a facility in Frederick or Greenbelt to determine if there is an infestation and how prevalent it is. If the animals do test positive for the disease, officials could impose further sanctions against the farm.
The senior Schisler's attorney, Roland Walker, said yesterday that county and state officials continue to target his client.
"They just cannot let it go," said Walker, citing animal cruelty charges that stretch back for years. "They're just going to continue to generate issues with this guy, until they either run out of gas or just give up."
The Schislers' criminal jury trial on charges of animal cruelty, feeding garbage to swine and selling contaminated meat is scheduled to begin in July in Carroll County Circuit Court.
The elder Schisler successfully appealed two Carroll Circuit Court cases on Thursday involving three llamas and a bull found unattended on a roadway near his property on separate occasions.
Trichinosis, caused by eating raw or undercooked pork and wild game products infected with the larvae of the roundworm trichinella spiralis, has all but disappeared from the nation's pig farms in the past 30 to 40 years, officials said.