Red-eared Slider

Identification & Biology
Latin Name : Trachemys scripta elegans
Category : Amphibians & Reptiles
Description :

The Red-eared Slider is one of the most recognizable turtles, not only due to the distinctive red streaks on either side of their head above each eye, but also because they can be found in many pet stores. Sliders have a green head with yellow patches on their underside. Slider’s shells can range anywhere from 12 cm to about 30 cm (1 ft) in length. The shells usually have black and yellow lines on their carapace (top of shell), with a yellow plastron (underbelly). Male shells tend to be a bit shorter than females but their tails appear larger. The Red-eared Slider is an ectotherm that sunbathes (or basks) in order to capture heat. Although the hearing of these turtles is poor, its other senses are amplified. Both their eyesight and sense of smell are excellent, along with the shell’s sense of touch.

Red-eared Sliders can sometimes be confused with the native Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). To tell a Red-eared Slider apart from a Western Painted Turtle, look for the telltale red “ear” mark on the slider. Painted turtles do not have any red markings on the neck or head.

Look Alikes

Red-eared Sliders like still, warm water in areas such as ponds, lakes, streams, swamps, and rivers. The turtle’s indigenous range is found in the Midwestern United States from New Mexico to parts of West Virginia and as far north as northern Illinois. However, sliders have been introduced in several ways and are the world’s most widely distributed fresh water turtle. The main source of introduction has been through pet releases. Now, these turtles can be found in parts of Canada and states on the east coast of the United States. Because of this, Red-eared Sliders can be found on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s list of the World’s 100 most invasive species.

Impact & Risks
  • A threat problem because of the resource competition, disease transfer, and habitat/biodiversity modification impact they have on indigenous species of the area.
  • Due to their basking behaviour, sliders pose a threat to any other species trying to find a good rock to bask upon. For example, the native Western Painted Turtle is 2-3x smaller than the Red-eared Slider and cannot easily compete for prime habitat. Reduced habitat availability influences all turtles because less food and basking time affects their metabolism and digestive function. Further, secondary or marginal habitat increases risk of predation.
  • Another impact is that of disease transfer. Past widespread turtle deaths in Washington State due to a respiratory disease and California due to the herpes virus exemplify the impact of disease transfer.
Prevention & Mitigation


Treatment & Disposal
  • Do NOT purchase Red-eared Sliders as pets. Turtles can be a tempting pet, especially the Red-eared Slider with its cool racing stripes, but pet releases have been identified as a primary way sliders have been spreading.
  • Never release Red-eared Sliders into the wild.
  • Educate others about non-native turtles.
  • Do NOT transport Red-eared Sliders from place to place; it is illegal under the BC Wildlife Act to capture, transport, keep or sell wild animals including turtles.
  • “Build it and they will come!” If you want native turtles in your backyard pond the best thing to do is create a welcoming environment for the turtles: water, shelter, and basking logs.
Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.