Red-eared Pond Slider


red-eared pond sliderIf you have ever seen a turtle lazily basking on a log or poking its nose out of the water to breathe, you were probably looking at a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). The most common turtle in Oklahoma, the red-eared slider also is one of the most common turtles in North America. They can be found in warm, sluggish waters from Oklahoma to Texas, east to Indiana and Georgia, and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Sliders have even been found in brackish (semi-saltwater) habitats, although they prefer ponds with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation.

The red-eared slider is perhaps the best known and most recognizable turtle. The top of the shell, called the carapace, is smooth and gently curved and is olive to black in color with yellow stripes. A medium -sized turtle, it is best identified by a red or sometimes yellow patch that is found just behind the eye.
Young turtles are the most brightly colored. As they age, their shells generally turn to a drab olive green. Adults can reach a foot in length and have been known to live up to 65 years in captivity.

During the breeding season, which typically runs from March through June, the males work hard to put on a show to woo prospective females. The males display by swimming backward in front of the female with their forelegs stretched out, palm side up. They also tap the female’s carapace with their long front toenails.

Red-eared sliders may produce up to three clutches of four to 23 eggs in a single year. One of the few times a slider goes on land is to dig a nest three to 10 inches wide and about four inches deep. She deposits her eggs in these excavations and carefully covers them up with soil to seal in the eggs for protection from predators and the elements. The young turtles hatch 60 to 75 days later.

As is the case with many other turtles, the hatchlings’ gender depends on the temperature within the nest; if the temperature in the nest is relatively warm, mostly males will be hatched; if it is relatively cool, mostly females will be hatched. Once the young turtles hatch, they face a gauntlet of predators including raccoons, herons, snakes and even fish that would make the hatchlings their next meal.

Young turtles are mostly carnivorous, eating snails, insects and small fish. As turtles mature they gradually switch over to vegetarian diet, dining on filamentous algae and aquatic vegetation. It is a common myth that turtles will wipe out a fish population when, in fact, they are an important part of aquatic ecosystems in Oklahoma in addition to being important an “natural” control of aquatic vegetation.

The Red-eared pond slider is almost exclusively aquatic. It rarely ventures out of the water except to lay its eggs or to migrate to a new body of water during droughts.