Turtles are fascinating animals with unique behaviors. In particular, red-eared slider turtles demonstrate a variety of interesting behaviors that make them intriguing to observe. Red-eared sliders , are a species of semi-aquatic turtle that can be found in freshwater habitats all over the world. They display an array of different behaviors that have been studied extensively by scientists. Red-eared sliders are some of the most common turtles found in ponds and rivers around the world. But what fascinates us about these fascinating creatures is that even though we see them regularly, many of us have no idea about their secret habits. In this article, we will uncover the unknown secrets of red-eared sliders and explore their behavior in the wild.
Physical Characteristics of Red-Eared turtle Sliders:
Red-eared turtle slider adults have a dark brown to olive colored carapace (top shell), with a yellow, patterned plastron (belly shell). They typically have prominent red or maroon stripes along the side of the head, to the side of each eye. Sliders have a strong, sturdy and jagged beak that they use to eat plant matter and smaller aquatic animals. Distinguishing males and females of the species is relatively easy. Male sliders are significantly smaller than females, growing to be only 8-10” in carapace (shell) length, and they have a longer tail and long front nails used in mating. Adult female sliders can grow to be as big as a large dinner plate, roughly 14-16” from tip to tip of the carapace, and they typically have a stubby tail and short front nails used for digging nests. All aquatic turtles have webbed feet to help make them fast and efficient swimmers.
Habitat/Diet of Red-Eared turtle Sliders:
Red-eared turtle sliders are semi-aquatic, freshwater turtles found in many streams, creeks, lakes and wetlands throughout the United States. Geographically, the species originated from around the Mississippi River and south to the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer warmer climates, particularly the southeastern United States, typically in areas east of and below Colorado to Virginia and continuing south to Florida. In the wild, they prefer habitats with calm, warm water, as well as logs or rocks for basking, suitable nesting areas, and plenty of vegetation to hide in and consume. Red-eared sliders are omnivorous, eating sub-aquatic vegetation, fruits, aquatic invertebrates, fishes, and amphibians like frogs and newts. Adult turtles eat sub-aquatic vegetation primarily, while around 40-50% of a juvenile turtles’ diet is animal protein. Young turtles prey mostly on small fish and amphibian eggs and tadpoles.
Social Behavior of Red-Eared turtle Sliders:
Red-eared turtle sliders are a solitary species, but they do “socialize” during mating season. Most turtles do not venture too far from their established freshwater habitat unless searching for a mate or nest site. In the wild, mating is seasonal, and in most areas, takes place between March and June. Males will reach sexual maturity at around 2-3 years of age, while the females reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years of age. During courtship, the male turtle will swim in front of the female and wiggle his front fingernails at her to entice her into mating with him. If she accepts the male as a mate, then internal fertilization follows this dance. If conditions are right, then the female will dig a nest three to four weeks later, and lay a clutch of eggs (usually 5-20 eggs per clutch). Female sliders can lay two to three clutches in one season. Hatchling turtles must dig their way out of the nest, and immediately seek out nearby food and water on their own. Many young turtles do not survive this vulnerable stage of life.
Red Eared turtle Slider Handling & Behavior Notes:
Red-eared turtle sliders and other pond sliders typically have fairly personable dispositions and quickly associate their keepers with food. They will pace back and forth at the front of their enclosure in anticipation whenever you walk by. However, don’t mistake that frantic pacing with begging for affection — they’re just hoping for a treat. Generally speaking, red-eared sliders dislike handling and prefer to be left alone. One of the easiest and most effective ways you can build trust with your pet red-eared slider is with tong feeding. Use the tweezers to offer occasional treats like bits of cooked shrimp or canned insects. Accustoming your turtle to hand-feeding is a good way to coax them out of the water for quick health checks, especially when you have a pond. You can further engage your pet with training and enrichment activities. This can be fun for both you and your pet red-eared slider!
Red-Eared Turtle Slider Handling Tips:
When handling is necessary, scoop them up from below with your palm rather than grabbing them from above. This will help them not to panic. Then grasp the shell with two hands, supporting both the body and the legs. Keep a firm but gentle grip — falling can do serious damage to a turtle, and can even be fatal!
Avoid petting your turtle. They generally don’t like this very much, and it will likely stress them out more than contribute to building a positive experience. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your turtle. When soap and water is not available, use a good hand sanitizer. Children under 5 should not be allowed to handle turtles, even when supervised.
Do red-eared turtle sliders bite?
Anything that has a mouth can bite, but red-eared sliders are known for occasionally biting humans that annoy them. Although red-eared sliders don’t have teeth, they do have sharp beaks, which means that a bite from a red-eared slider will be painful and likely to draw blood.
What should you do if you get bitten by your red eared turtle?
If you get bitten by your red-eared turtle during handling, don’t put it back in its enclosure right away. Its enclosure is the place where it wants to be, so putting it back is like a reward. The turtle will make the connection that biting humans is a good thing, and will be more likely to bite in the future. Instead, hand the turtle off to someone else (they can hold on to the turtle with a bath towel) or place it in a temporary container that it can’t escape from. Once the turtle has been taken care of, wash the bitten area thoroughly with lukewarm water and mild soap. Keep running it until water for about five minutes to thoroughly flush out the wound. Do not pour hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on the area — this may kill germs, but it will also damage your own cells and interfere with healing. Instead, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage. Red-eared slider bites are unlikely to be deep enough to require stitches, but if it’s deeper than 1/4″, continues to bleed after applying pressure for 15 minutes, or shows the underlying muscle, bone, or joint structures, then it’s best to head to an instant care clinic to get it checked out. Infection is a risk with animal bites, so keep an eye on the wounded area while it heals. If it gets red and inflamed, starts producing a yellow/green or cloudy discharge, gains a streaky appearance, or you develop a fever, then you will need to go to an instant care clinic for treatment.
Can you get salmonella from your red eared turtle turtle?
With smart hygiene practices, it’s pretty rare to get salmonellosis from a pet reptile. However, because of their aquatic lifestyle, you are more likely to get salmonella poisoning from a turtle than from most other reptiles.
Retraction : This is when the turtle pulls its head and limbs into its shell. Retraction usually signals that your turtle is uncomfortable, either with its current situation or because it’s not feeling well.
Sunbathing : Turtles will stretch out their limbs and head to their fullest extent in a yoga-like position. This posture allows the turtle to completely dry out and create maximum surface area for absorbing warmth and UVB. Usually this can be interpreted as a sign that your turtle is enjoying their basking session.
Pacing : Turtle is swimming back and forth along the edge of the enclosure. This is more common with glass aquariums than ponds. This can indicate the eager anticipation of food, or if the behavior is near constant, that the turtle needs a larger aquarium. (Note: Just because the turtle is “begging” for food doesn’t mean you should always give it.)
Fluttering : Male turtles will face another turtle, head-to-head, extend forelimbs, and gently tap the other’s head with his claws. This is usually a courtship behavior performed toward females, but it can also be a method of asserting dominance.
Stacking : Multiple turtles will stack on top of each other to share a basking location. This is a form of competition for the best basking spot, and should be discouraged. If you notice this behavior between cohabited turtles, provide more basking areas. If you have multiple turtles, watch for dominance displays or signs of bullying. This includes fluttering, stacking, biting/nipping, and fighting over food. A bullied turtle will be skittish, hide often, or sit constantly in one place. They may have scars, wounds, or damaged scales from being bitten by other turtles, and they are likely to lose weight. For these reasons, many choose to house their turtles singly. If you decide to have multiple turtles sharing one enclosures or pond, here are some ways you can reduce competition and bullying:
- Increase the pond size by half
- Provide multiple basking areas
- Feed them separately
- Provide enrichment activities/items
Sometimes certain turtles just don’t get along, despite your best efforts. (This is especially the case pertaining to aggressive males.) When that is the case, it’s best to just separate them permanently.
Size of Red-Eared turtle Sliders:
The adult male red-eared turtles can grow up to 7-9 inches by size. The females can attain a length of 10-12 inches. However, some individuals seldom grow bigger. The newly-born baby red-eared sliders (hatchlings) are approximately 1 inch in diameter.
Skin/Color of Red-Eared turtle Sliders: The red-eared’s skin is mainly green marked with yellow stripes. They have a red patch behind each of the eyes. However, some might have a single red patch atop their head.
Shell of Red-Eared turtle Sliders : The carapace of a baby red-eared slider is marked with fine patterns of yellow-green to dark green markings upon a greenish base. During the process of growing up to an adult, the color of the turtle starts to change to olive or yellow. The fine light patterns turn darker, while some parts of the shell get hues of yellow, white or even red. With aging, all hues, gradually, start to fade, until the coloration attains a solid hue of green-brown or dark olive. In some cases, the males of the breed turn completely black or dark gray.
Behavior and Temperament of Red Eared Turtle Slider:
The red-eared slider is almost completely aquatic. Although harmless and peaceful, and are gregarious by nature, these turtles are extremely alert. They are territorial by nature.These creatures are cold-blooded and hence need to frequently come up in the land in groups for a warm-up. When they are out of water, they would remain extremely cautious and would instantly get back into the water if they feel threatened or even see a human. The red-eared sliders are excellent swimmers.
Do red-eared sliders hibernate:
Reptiles do not hibernate, nor does the read-eared slider. Rather, during winter months, they brumate, which might apparently be similar to ‘hibernation’. ‘Brumation’ is the phase during which these creatures stay inactive for 1 to 8 months at a stretch (depending upon climatic factors, its health and size) under water without much activity and often with less or no food (“state of sopor”). However, they do need to drink water during this stage.
Lifespan of red eared turtle slider:
In captivity, the average lifespan of the red-eared slider is 20 to 40 years. However, reportedly, they have lived for up to 80 years in the wild.
Reproduction of red eared turtle slider:
The courtship or mating rituals of the male red-eared slider is performed underwater, which can last for up to 45 minutes. Though, the mating process lasts only up to 10 minutes. During the mating dance, the male vibrates and flaps the back of his claws on and around the face of the female. If receptive, the female would float down at the bottom to signify that she is ready for mating. However, at times, if the female is not receptive, she might become aggressive to her mate.
When the female is pregnant with eggs, she would often change the course of her everyday diet, or refrain from consuming the usual amount of her everyday food. The female takes time to bask her eggs every day, and would lay anything between 2 and 30 eggs at one go. These eggs are laid inside a burrow, which she would dig out with her hind feet. The gestation period of the female can be days or weeks, while the incubation time is 59 to 112 days. The hatchlings break out of the eggs, using their temporary egg tooth, that would fall off within an hour of their coming out.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Therefore, if you count the rings and divide by 2, you have a general estimate of the turtle's age. Look for the rings. You don't want to count scutes, as scutes do not reflect the turtle's age. Rather, you want to look at the rings within the scutes.
They have shown levels of intelligence and owner recognition, and will frequently greet their keeper during feeding time, sometimes even eating out of the palm of their hand.
Red-eared sliders are a solitary species, but they do “socialize” during mating season. Most turtles do not venture too far from their established fresh water habitat unless searching for a mate or nest site. In the wild, mating is seasonal, and in most areas, takes place between March and June.
Red Ear Turtles lay their eggs between May through early July. A female might lay from two to 30 eggs, with larger females having larger clutches. One female can lay up to five clutches in the same year, and clutches are usually spaced 12 to 36 days apart. Eggs hatch 60 to 90 days after they have been laid.
In conclusion, the red-eared turtle slider is a unique species of turtle with many interesting habits. From their ability to adapt to different habitats, to their remarkable mating and nesting behavior, these turtles have much to offer us in terms of understanding how different species interact. By observing their behavior and focusing on conservation efforts, we can help protect this species for generations to come. In addition, studying the habits of this turtle can provide valuable insights into other aquatic animals, including the effects of pollution on water habitats.