Invasive Animal

Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Trachemys scripta elegans
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Warning

Red-eared slider turtles are reptiles and can carry Salmonella and other illness/disease causing pathogens.

About This Species

Red-eared sliders are popular pets in many parts of the world, especially when they are young and small. Unfortunately, many pet owners have released Red-eared sliders into natural ecosystems, likely after the turtles grew to full size and became more difficult to care for. This is likely how the Red-eared slider was introduced to BC’s wetlands. They can be found on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Courtenay, on the South Coast including Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, and in the Southern Interior. Their native range stretches from the Southeastern US to Brazil.

Red-eared sliders compete with native turtles for basking sites, food, and habitat and may carry diseases such as Salmonella bacteria. They are considered a threat to the endangered Western painted turtle because they carry several respiratory diseases harmful to turtles (COSEWIC 2016). Red-eared sliders prefer warm, stagnant water with lots of vegetation, like ponds and the shallow ends of lakes. They feed on aquatic plants and insects, crayfish, snails, tadpoles and fish, and even small frogs.

Female sliders make nests and lay eggs in April-May and can lay up to four clutches of eggs per year. Each clutch may contain between 4-23 eggs. Red-eared sliders can live up to 40 years. During the winter, they hibernate in hollow logs or partially buried in the mud at the bottom of ponds.

How to Identify

Red-eared sliders’ most recognizable feature is the red patches just behind their eyes. These range in colour from bright cherry red to a ruddy brown. These turtles have green stripes going down their neck, along their legs and feet, and on their tail. Adults are typically 28 cm in length. The bottom of their shell (the plastron) is yellow with two rows of brown splotches, and the top of their shell (the carapace) is dark green and brown with a slight keel running down the center.

For a detailed photo guide on how to identify this turtle and the endangered Western painted turtle, see the BC Turtle Watch ID Guide.

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