Red-eared slider turtle

Alert

Have you seen Red-eared slider turtle?

Be on the lookout for Red-eared slider turtles and report them to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in preventing Red-eared slider turtles from becoming a major problem in Queensland.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to the USA, the red-eared slider is a freshwater turtle with a distinctive red strip behind each ear. Red-eared sliders are very aggressive and will out-compete native species for food and space. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the red-eared slider as one of the world's 100 worst invasive alien species.

Red-eared sliders have been distributed through the illegal pet trade, and wild populations have now established on every continent except Antarctica. In the mid 2000's, they were found established in the wild in an isolated area of South East Queensland and initially were believed to be eradicated.

You must not move, keep, feed, give away, sell, or release red-eared slider turtles into the environment.

You must report all sightings to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.

Scientific name

Trachemys scripta elegans

Similar species

  • Trachemys scripta (yellow-bellied slider), Trachemys troostii (Cumberland slider) (both have yellow instead of red band behind each eye)

Description

  • Freshwater turtle up to 30cm long.
  • Ears have distinctive red strips behind them.
  • Head can retract head back into shell (unlike native turtles).
  • Mature turtles are aggressive and bite.
  • Pet trade has also developed two colour morphs of red-eared sliders: pastel (lighter colour with varying amounts of red and yellow) and albino (bright yellow juvenile with colour fading as turtle ages) and melanistic where there is little to no colouration including no red stripe behind the ear.

Habitat

  • Due to species' aggression, illegal pet owners may release turtles into local creeks and waterways.
  • Very adaptable to Australian waterways, with few predators.
  • Red-eared sliders can move up to 9km from water to find suitable habitat, search for a mate, or lay eggs. Nests are dug well above water level, usually within 500m of water but sometimes up to 1.6km away.

Distribution

  • Has been found in the wild in South East Queensland.
  • Known populations thought to have been eradicated.

Life cycle

  • Sexually mature at 2–5 years of age.
  • Lays up to 70 eggs per year.
  • Females can produce viable eggs for up to 5 years after mating.
  • Maximum life-span generally 20–30 years.

Affected animals

  • Native species including native turtles

Impacts

Environmental

  • Affects range of aquatic prey, including rare amphibians.
  • Can take over waterbird nests for basking sites, and damage and prey on eggs and hatchlings.
  • Out-competes native turtle species for food and space in waterways.
  • Carries pathogens and diseases that can kill native turtles and other aquatic wildlife.

Social

  • Captive red-eared sliders have been a source of salmonella infection in humans in USA.

Natural enemies

  • Very few natural predators in Australia.

Control

Legal requirements

  • The Red-eared slider turtle is a category 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • You must not move, keep, feed, give away, sell, or release into the environment. Penalties may apply.
  • You must report all sightings to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.
  • You must take all reasonable and practical measures to minimise the biosecurity risks associated with dealing with red-eared slider turtles under your control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken for red-eared slider turtles. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local council for more information.

Further information