Red-Eared Slider Turtle
Trachemys scripta elegans
Vectors of spread:
Size: Adults can reach 29 cm in length, while hatchlings are around 2-3.5 cm long.
Colour: Hatchlings are green, with yellow and darker green markings on the head, legs, neck, and carapace (upper shell). Adults are distinguishable from other turtle species by the red “ear” patch behind the eye. Yellow stripes decorate the face and the neck, while the carapace is decorated with dark lines and swirls. The plastron (lower shell) of adult individuals is yellow with dark blotches.
Life Cycle: Individuals have a lifespan of 20-40 years, and reach sexual maturity between 3-4 years.
Reproduction: Female Red-Eared Sliders lay 2-23 eggs in a cavity dug out of the soil during April or May, and can lay up to 5 clutches each year! Hatchlings typically emerge from the nest around June or July.
- Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta): Lacks the red “ear” patch that the Red-Eared Slider Turtle has behind the eye. Red-Eared Sliders compete with Western Painted Turtles for nesting sites, basking sites, and food.
Habitat and Origin
Red-Eared Sliders are a species native to the Mid-Central to South-Central USA, and some parts of Mexico. They are an introduced species to Europe, Asia, and many other regions in North America, including the southern regions of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The global presence of Red-Eared Sliders can be attributed to both the pet trade and the commercial food trade in Asia.
This species prefers to make its home in freshwater ecosystems with slow currents and muddy bottoms, such as streams, rivers, swamps, ponds, and lakes. Hibernation occurs in mud or logs during the winter, while feeding and basking occur on rocks and logs in the summer.
Red-Eared Slider Turtles are popular pets as hatchlings and juveniles. However, when they reach their full and often unexpected size, housing and care become difficult and pet owners discover that it is harder to care for a Red-Eared Slider than they might have originally thought. Pet owners often decide to release their unwanted Red-Eared Sliders into the nearest water body once they deem care too difficult.
Red-Eared Slider Turtles have been known to escape during transport, as well as from aquaculture farms that supply the commercial food trade in Asia. Once Red-Eared Sliders have been introduced to an area, females may disperse up to 2 km to lay eggs.
Ecological and Health Impacts
Red-Eared Sliders compete with native turtle species, such as the Western Painted Turtle, for nesting sites, basking sites, and food. An abundance of nesting and basking sites for native turtle species is important to keep their populations stable.
In addition, Red-Eared Sliders disrupt the delicate food webs of aquatic ecosystems and may contribute to the accelerated population decline in native amphibian species. This species is highly adaptive and can survive in a range of water bodies and conditions. Sightings of the Red-Eared Slider Turtle have even been reported in polluted waters.
Red-Eared Sliders are a source of human salmonellosis and can spread this to humans through contact with shed skin.
What Can I Do?
Red-Eared Slider Turtles have been spotted throughout the Lower Mainland, but their presence has not been confirmed in the Sea to Sky Region, so PREVENTION is key.
Learn to identify Red-Eared Slider Turtles: use the images presented in this profile page.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Red-Eared Slider Turtle sighting by clicking here.
Don’t Let It Loose. Through public education and awareness, encourage pet owners to consider rehoming services and rescue centers for unwanted Red-Eared Sliders or euthanasia as a last resort.
Ensure information about proper care available. Pet shops or retailers should provide proper care sheets for Red-Eared Sliders, and ensure that any potential pet owners know the size and lifespan of the species.
- Release a Red-Eared Slider Turtle into the wild.
- Capture a Red-Eared Slider and release it into an area where they do not occur, like the Sea to Sky region.
- BC Reptiles, https://www.bcreptiles.ca/turtles/redearslider.htm
- Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), http://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/fauna/amphibians-and-reptiles/turtles/red-eared-slider.html
- US Geological Survey (USGS), https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=1261
- Global Invasive Species Database (GISD), http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=71
- E-Fauna BC, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/efauna/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Trachemys%20scripta&ilifeform=43
- Ontario Nature, https://ontarionature.org/dont-set-them-free/
- Invasive Species Compendium, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/61560
- Global Invasive Species Database (GISD), http://issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=71&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN