Red Eared Slider/Terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Like the European Pond Turtle, this small terrapin species has been released or escaped into the wild from captivity. This is partly thought to be due to pet owners being surprised by how large the animals grow (young sliders are quite small) and people being unable to keep the creature, so they have released them into local ponds and habitats. Breeding in the wild in the UK is not often successful, but they have been seen laying eggs. There is a need for more data about sightings of these animals to know how many can be found here.
|Identification||Females 25-33 cm and males 20-25 cm in length. Males usually smaller than females. Tail of male is longer and thicker than that of females. Shell is oval and flattened. Distinctive red stripe on each side of the head. Shell usually dark green with light and dark markings. Plastron (bottom shell) is yellow with dark, irregular markings. Older animals become darker with more uniform markings. Red stripes often less distinct.|
|Distribution||Non-native species. Native to North America.Introduced into Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Abundance and distribution in the UK not well known but numbers thought to be increasing. Individuals found in the wild in the UK thought to be pets that have escaped or have been deliberately released.|
|Ecology||Found in freshwater ponds, lakes, canals and slow-moving rivers. Almost entirely aquatic but leave the water to bask in the sun and lay eggs. Feed on fish, tadpoles, snails, crickets, and aquatic plants. Three subspecies are recognised: Trachemys scripta scripta, Trachemys scripta troostii and Trachemys scripta elegans. Females can produce up to 3 clutches of 2-19 eggs per year. In the UK, reproduction in the wild is rarely successful, although egg laying behaviour has been observed.|
|Predators and other threats||Due to the Red Eared Sliders size and thick shell, as an adult they have few predators, apart from alligators or crocodiles. They are vulnerable however, when young, and may be predated by a variety of fauna in their native homelands such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and wading birds.
Adult Red Eared Sliders are unlikely to come under predation from UK native fauna, however their young could be susceptible to foxes and wading birds should they be encountered.
The Red Eared Slider is classified as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN. This is due to its global widespread population and a tolerance of a range of habitats, including degraded areas. It is seen as a pest in many countries including the U.K., U.S.A and Australia and can outcompete / predate upon native fauna. While not threatened in the wild, the Red Eared Slider is taken from its natural range to be used in the pet trade. It also suffers from human pressure as they are used as a source of food, particularly in Asia.
N.B. The release of exotic species into the wild is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.