Red-eared slider turtle

Alert

Have you seen Red-eared slider turtle?

Be on the lookout for Red-eared slider turtle and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in controlling Red-eared slider turtle.

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 feral populations have now established on every continent except Antarctica. In the past, they have been found in the wild in South East Queensland, but are now believed to have been eradicated here.

Red-eared slider turtle is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Trachemys scripta elegans

Similar species

  • T.s. scripta (yellow-bellied slider), T. s. 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).

Habitat

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

Distribution in Queensland

  • Has been found in 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

  • Control is difficult and expensive.
  • Continuous netting of waterways to remove turtles is required.
  • Detector dog has been used to find eggs for destruction.
  • Small water bodies may be drained and compacted.

Legal requirements

  • Red-eared slider turtle is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, moved, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • All sightings of red eared slider turtles must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours of the sighting.
Last updated
06 July 2016