Red-Eared Slider

Trachemys scripta elegans

The red-eared slider is native to the Mississippi River basin in the southern U.S. In the wild, it inhabits warm streams and ponds and is almost entirely aquatic, leaving the water only to bask in the sun or lay eggs. These turtles are fast swimmers and feed on animals and plants. The name red-eared slider refers to the turtle’s distinctive red mark near the ear and its ability to quickly slide off rocks and logs into the water when threatened.

Red-eared sliders are popular pets in the U.S. and worldwide. Many have escaped and they are established in several locations outside their native range.

Did You Know?

The name Red Eared Slider refers to the turtle’s distinctive red mark near the ear and its ability to quickly slide off rocks and logs into the water.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Red-eared sliders are often harvested from the wild by collection of eggs.  This may have an impact on wild populations, but its impact is currently unknown.  Wild populations of red-eared sliders are not considered at risk of extinction due to their large numbers and wide geographic range.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When possible, purchase a captive-bred or captive-reared animal, as this will decrease the demand for wild-born individuals. In general, captive-bred animals will be healthier and live longer than wild-caught animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

Red-eared sliders have been introduced to many areas of North America. Self-sustaining populations outside the native range are likely competing with native animals for food and habitat. Some states have regulations limiting possession of red-eared sliders because of their high potential to invade new areas and potentially harm native plants and animals.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Although red-eared sliders are relatively easy to keep in captivity, they can grow to be a fair size (over a foot long), requiring a large enclosure. They require a varied diet and UV light exposure. One potential concern is that they are capable of surviving for more than 30 years in captivity and therefore require a long-term commitment to care.

Red-eared sliders can also be quite aggressive towards one another, especially when food is involved. If several sliders are kept together in the same tank, be careful to prevent injury or death of smaller individuals. If a group of hatchlings are kept together, the older and more aggressive ones will quickly outgrow their younger and smaller companions.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a red-eared slider, be sure to research its specific care requirements. Make sure to research the necessary requirements for keeping a turtle healthy and happy for 30 years or more. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Red-eared sliders commonly carry Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly. A 1975 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation banned the sale (for general commercial and public use) of turtle eggs and small turtles (shell length of less than 4 inches) because of the public health impacts of turtle-associated Salmonella.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Regardless, when purchasing a pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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