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Red-eared Slider Turtle of Louisiana

Updated on March 6, 2015
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Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

Identification of Red-eared Sliders

Reptile: Trachemys scripta elegans

The Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is the only species of Slider turtle that inhabits Louisiana. It is also the most commonly seen turtle in the Southeast. They are often seen sunning on logs in roadside ponds or crossing roads.

In the past, baby Red-eared Sliders were a popular pet and were sold in pet stores all over the United States, but that practice was stopped and it is now illegal to sell baby Red-eared Sliders in the U.S.

All photos by Y.L. Bordelon aka naturegirl7 All Rights Reserved

Red-eared sliders are medium to large turtles with high domed shells. They are attractive turtles with patterns in shades of green, yellow and brown.

The most prominent identification feature is the red spot behind the eye, which distinguishes the Red-eared from similar looking Chicken and Map turtles. Besides the red spot behind each eye, Red-eareds also have a serrated posterior carapace (the part of the shell above the tail) edge. The underside of the shell is yellow with black smudges on most of the plastral scutes (squarish plates).

Red-eared Slider Doing Backstroke

Source

Males and Females

Females are larger than males. Males have long "fingernails" (claws) on their front feet which they flutter in the water to attract females during mating.

Hatchlings look like adults, but are more colorful and rounder than adults.

Older male Red-eareds can become melanistic to the point of looking almost black and losing the red spots behind the eye. Notice the older, darker Red-eared Slider above the younger, more colorful one in the poster below.

River Turtles Poster

Source

Many of the turtle photos seen here can be purchased in Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop as print-on-demand products such as posters, cards, apparel, mugs, etc.

Turtles of the Southeast

Another of the fabulous collection of animals of the southeast. Beautiful, full color photos and excellent information.

Habits and Habitats

This Red-eared Slider does not have whiskers. There is a catfish below it trying to bump it out of the way. Many sliders develop algae on their backs from sun bathing in shallow water.

River Catfish and Turtle Poster

Source

Red-eared Sliders live all over Louisiana in permanent swamps and ponds, oxbow lakes, slow moving rivers and relatively permanent river flood plain swamps. They readily travel over land and will inhabit isolated seasonal wetlands, farm ponds and natural lakes.

Red-eareds are active during the warm months and during warm spells in winter. They travel from spring through fall and as their seasonal wetlands dry up, will search for new water ways or ponds.

Red-eared Sliders can be seen sunning themselves on logs, rocks, banks and even floating vegetation.

Red-eared Turtle in River

Source

3 Turtles Swimming

These turtles were photographed in the Tchefuncte River.
These turtles were photographed in the Tchefuncte River. | Source

Food and Diet

Juvenile Red-eared Sliders are carnivorous, eating primarily insects. Adults are omnivoruous and can survive on plants, but will eat animal prey if they have the opportunity to capture or scavenge dead fish or an animal.

Plant material eaten includes: three kinds of algae; two dozen aquatic plants (both native and introduced species); and many animals groups including freshwater sponges, snails, clams, crawfish, spiders and many types of insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles.

Predators

Nest predators include native mammals such as skunks and raccoons. Juveniles fall victim to gar, catfish, snakes, alligators, crows, wading birds, raccoons, mink, otters and coyotes.

Spotted Gar and Turtle

Spotted gars are large predatory fish which are found in many Southeastern Louisiana rivers.
Spotted gars are large predatory fish which are found in many Southeastern Louisiana rivers. | Source

Reproduction

Red-eared Slider Turtles Book

Red-eared Slider Hatchling

This little one is only a few days old.
This little one is only a few days old. | Source

Female Slider Laying Eggs Near Our Pond

Male Red-eared Sliders have long foreclaws and use them in an unusual courtship in which he vibrates the claws in front of the females face while they are both underwater. We have observed this curious "dance" and the view from above the water looks like many small fish are hitting the surface of the water. This courtship occurs on sunny winter days through early spring.

Females lay their eggs in open, sunny areas near their wetlands. They may travel over a mile to find just the right spot for their nest. The females lay from 1-5 clutches containing from 2 to over 20 eggs (average is from 6-11) per clutch. The eggs hatch in late summer, but the hatchlings usually stay in the nest through winter and emerge the following spring to travel to the water.

Sexual maturity for males occurs at from 2-6 years of age. Females are usually at least 8 years old before they can lay eggs.

Red-eared Hatchlings in the Fifties

Red-eared Sliders Pet Care Book

Red-Eared Sliders (Animal Planet Pet Care Library)
Red-Eared Sliders (Animal Planet Pet Care Library)

This pet care book is published by the Animal Planet.

 

Back in the 1950s, when I was a kid, I used to spend hours in Audubon Park. There is a big lagoon that goes through the park and it was teaming with wildlife. Each spring, hatchling Red-eared turtles would dig their way out of their nests and scurry to the lagoon to hide in the vegetation along the banks. Ott's Pet shop, on Magazine Street, used to buy and sell the little turtles and many youngsters, myself included, would make extra money (25 cents a piece) by catching and selling the hatchlings to Mr. Ott. All you needed was a scoop net to catch them in and an old sock to keep them in. I became something of an expert and was known to catch 3 or more at a time. An enterprising young man could make $5.00 or more on a Saturday morning.

Of course, back then I did not realize that most of the little turtles that I sold to Ott's Pet shop did not come to a good end. At that time, I thought that everyone who bought them took as good care of them as I did. I was disappointed when I found out years later that a large number of the baby Red-eared turtles that were sold in shops died in captivity.

Last River and Fish Poster

We are trying to keep the Little Tchefuncte clean and healthy so all the organisms will thrive.
We are trying to keep the Little Tchefuncte clean and healthy so all the organisms will thrive. | Source

Conservation Issues

Because of the decades of selling hatchling Red-eared Turtles in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, many were released into areas outside their native range. Some have hybridized with other Slider species and there is concern that their genes may swamp those of the native population. There have been reports of Red-eareds displacing native turtles in Europe and also, of their becoming established in Southeast Asia. However, in China, the use of Red-eared Sliders as pets and food appears to be helping the threatened native turtles.

Red-eared Sliders in the Tchefuncte River

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This large red-eared is probably a female.These 2 males race for the bread. Old turtle is in the lead...Young turtle comes up from behind so they both get a piece.This younger red-eared still shows a lot of color on his shell & body.You can see the difference between an old male (left) and the younger one.This old male seems to be the dominant turtle in this part of the river.The red mark on the head is larger in males & the males are smaller in size.There are often 3-4 turtles on the sandbar by the shore each morning.Long claws and a big red mark show that this turtle is a male.
This large red-eared is probably a female.
This large red-eared is probably a female.
These 2 males race for the bread. Old turtle is in the lead...
These 2 males race for the bread. Old turtle is in the lead...
Young turtle comes up from behind so they both get a piece.
Young turtle comes up from behind so they both get a piece.
This younger red-eared still shows a lot of color on his shell & body.
This younger red-eared still shows a lot of color on his shell & body.
You can see the difference between an old male (left) and the younger one.
You can see the difference between an old male (left) and the younger one.
This old male seems to be the dominant turtle in this part of the river.
This old male seems to be the dominant turtle in this part of the river.
The red mark on the head is larger in males & the males are smaller in size.
The red mark on the head is larger in males & the males are smaller in size.
There are often 3-4 turtles on the sandbar by the shore each morning.
There are often 3-4 turtles on the sandbar by the shore each morning.
Long claws and a big red mark show that this turtle is a male.
Long claws and a big red mark show that this turtle is a male.

Red-eared Slider Poll

Did or do you have a pet red-eared slider turtle?

See results

Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins Book

Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins: Survivors in Armor
Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins: Survivors in Armor

This is an excellent book about these reptiles.

 

Red-eared Slider Video

© 2009 Yvonne L. B.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Hairdresser007: That is so amazing that u had your turtle for that many years. She was solo lucky to have u as her caretaker. R u going to consider another one? So many don't have good homes, my heart breaks for them. I just sent mine to a rescue in Houston Texas, I only had her 9 months but I could not build the pond I had hoped, plus it is colder here in Oregon than they like. Somehow they are living in our lakes as they are now an invasive species. So...people are just letting then go which it is cruel, but they must feel it is for the best. I still miss my girl, I find it hard to go into the room I had her in! So silly, she is sunning right this minute in the warm Houston sun and loving it I am sure. She is happy, but..... thank for giving your RES a good home all those years!

    • naturegirl7s profile image
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      Yvonne L. B. 4 years ago from Covington, LA

      @anonymous: Thanks for giving her a chance to live free in a place where there will be many of her own kind. You are a special person.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was given a female RES back in Sept 2012. I have a barber shop and had her in there until I found out they are illegal to even own.I live on the coast of Oregon. I immediately put her out of sight. My husband found a rescue in Houston Tex. We will take Delilah to the airport early sat morning and she will live at the rescue until she successfully comes out of hibernation. She will then be released in a private lake in LA. I am soooo sad as I will never see her again. She deserves freedom, I cannot give her what nature can but I wish I could see her in her new world. They are a wonderful animal and I wish her a long and content life.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      We have Red-eared Sliders allovertheplace in Arizona. I first saw them at Agua Caliente Park, and they seem to have a pretty stable population of a few. Then I saw them at Sweetwater Wetlands, where I see them often during certain seasons. I think they were probably originally released pets, but I don't know for sure. I enjoyed all this information. Thank you!

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      RykiBergstrand 5 years ago

      I didn't realize how big they get! Thanks for this lens!

    • naturegirl7s profile image
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      Yvonne L. B. 5 years ago from Covington, LA

      @anonymous: I was going by the information I found in Turtles of the Southeast by Buhlmann, Tuberville and Gibbons. According to the range map, Louisiana only has the Red-eared. They state that, "The yellow-bellied and red-eared subspecies intergrade in western Georgia and eastern Alabama." It is certainly possible that the male you found could have been transported to NE LA. It has probably interbred with the red-eareds there.

      I grew up in a small town in north Louisiana, in Red River Parish.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I don't think those are the only sliders native to Louisiana because I live in north east louisiana and about a month ago I found a large male yellow bellied slider.It may have been a released pet but I don't know

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 5 years ago from Burbank, CA

      Last year was a sad year for me. My red eared slider passed away after 33 years. She was a great pet!

    • profile image

      Bahrns 5 years ago

      Great lens! Turtles always amazed me ever since I was a kid and I want to have one as pet...

      Material Handling

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      Excellent Lens!

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 5 years ago from Havre de Grace

      I didn't know that this is such a common turtle in the southeast. I enjoyed your lens!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Wonderful photographs and video. I learned a lot. I can see why it's LOTD.

    • profile image

      bholi80 5 years ago

      hie.!!!!

      It is also best, as with any reptile, to get a captive bred specimen if at all possible. This isn't easy for some species, but the capture and shipping conditions can be appalling, and result in stressed animals which are then more prone to disease. It is also possible in some areas to locate tortoises from rescues.........?

    • draik profile image

      draik 5 years ago

      My sister and I have got 2 of these and they are more than 20 year old. One laid eggs and the other one just eat the freshly lay eggs. We only find out about their eggs when it was half eaten.

    • ApplianceRepairsB profile image

      ApplianceRepairsB 5 years ago

      My brother just bought one of these! awesome

    • Missy Zane profile image

      Missy Zane 5 years ago

      What a beautiful lens. Thank you so much!

    • naturegirl7s profile image
      Author

      Yvonne L. B. 5 years ago from Covington, LA

      @JZinoBodyArt: You are so right. The turtles can reveal a lot about the quality of the environment that they live in. In clean environments more food is available and pollutants (that can damage the ability to reproduce) are not present.

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      JZinoBodyArt 5 years ago

      Great lens!!! In my opinion, this is one of the best Red-Eared Slider pages on the internet. I never knew the differences between male and female. Can the health and population of turtles tell a lot about their environment?

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 5 years ago

      An absolutely wonderful page filled with great information . . . and I just love the images. My son (who is now an adult) still has his red-eared slider . . . they've been together for over 16 years! **Blessed!**

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      baby-strollers 5 years ago

      cute little fella, I didn't even realize turtles had ears!

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      Such an interesting turtle! Thanks for sharing this information and your photos. :)

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 5 years ago

      I remember these turtles as a kid. My parents would not let me have one. Very informative lens. Thanks

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      NidhiRajat 5 years ago

      Good information in Lens...

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      mepperly07 5 years ago

      Love your article as I have 2 that I keep in an indoor small fountain. They were purchased at a pet store here in Washington state. I just wanted you to know that some states have outlawed selling them but you can still get them in some too. I enjoy my red eared sliders.

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 5 years ago from USA

      Very interesting and informative lens!

    • Trender1 profile image

      Trender1 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! I grew up in Louisiana and tried to have more turtle pets than I can remember. I don't think they liked me as much as I liked them...!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      love turtles.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I had two of these turtles. I couldn't keep them alive though.

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      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      Beautiful turtles, I think I saw one growing up actually. Is there any scientific explanation why they have red dots behind their ears, and how they're different from other common species?

    • profile image

      DonMiguelito 5 years ago

      Great images and very presentable lens! Nice job!

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 5 years ago

      Great lens - blessed by a travelling angel.

    • profile image

      JoyKitten 5 years ago

      This is such a great lens!

      From the time I was a little girl I've loved turtles and tortoises.

      As a little kid I had a red eared slider.

      Thanks for the memories.

    • msnz profile image

      msnz 5 years ago

      Just wow.. Very informative and beautifully crafted lens. Congrats

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      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      Nice lens. Just lensrolled it to my Fly River Turtle lens.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi, I have a question for anybody with an answer. About a year and a half ago my youngest son found a red eared slider in the sidewalk, close to where we live (we live in Tokyo). When we found it it was just a tiny, maybe 2 inches across the shell from head to tail. We took it home and adopted it, but in the time we have had her she has grown rapidly to more than 5 inches across the shell from head to tail (probably 7 in. from tip of the head to tip of the tail). Anyway, Tokyo being what it is, we do not have much space and we have already change her to a bigger tank once, so we are consider releasing her. We have found a pond in Kamakura with lots of red eared sliders just like her, but I was wondering if there is a time of the year where releasing her would be better. She is very active in the when it's warm but, as all cold blooded animals, as soon as it starts getting cold she eats and moves little. Winter is coming and she has already gone into a decreased activity pattern, so we were wondering if releasing her now would be safe. Any suggestions anyone. Please. Thanks to all. I.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We have a Red-eared Slider now and his name is Billy. I was going to let him go in the creek behind our house but was afraid that the Raccoon would get him. We have had him for about 8 years, I think. We did purchase him in a Pet Store but maybe that was before the law or maybe the law is by states. Great lens and I will try to find a safe place to release Billy back to the wild. Blessed. Lensrolled to Pet Talk where there is a picture of Billy.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      mud turtles rock

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      @naturegirl7s: what is the full name of LSU lake? I need to find a good place to let my RES go. I am coming all the way from NYC. don't know a thing about Louisiana. my email is izabelle7@earthlink.net. please help

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I think I'd rather have a Slider Turtle than your ear. Beautiful creature. Beautiful lens. Blessed by an angel today

    • naturegirl7s profile image
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      Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from Covington, LA

      I had a pet red-eared slider when I was in college. I let it go in LSU lake. Great lens.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      IT'S SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE

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      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      Thank you for joining us on A Walk in the Woods and don't forget to add your lens to the appropriate plexo.

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great, informative lens and I love the fact that you have included your own photos. SquidAngel Blessings for you!