Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Family Emydidae

Red-eared Slider
Trachemys scripta elegans

Photo of Red-eared Slider courtesy of John White
Photo of Red-eared Slider courtesy of John White

Size

8 - 13 inches. Record: 15 inches

Appearance

  • This turtle gets its name from the broad red stripe behind its eye. The stripe may also grade to yellow.

  • Yellow stripes are found along its neck and throat.

  • The carapace (top shell) is oval, slightly domed (not flattened) and may have a weak keel.

  • The carapace is usually a dark green to brown color with variable markings.

  • The rear marginal scutes are notched.

  • The plastron (bottom shell) is yellowish, often with dark markings in the center of each scute, or scale.

  • Males are often smaller than females but will have longer claws.

  • Photo of Red-eared Slider courtesy of Scott A. Smith
    Photo of Red-eared Slider courtesy of Scott A. Smith

    Habitats

    Prefers slow warm waters of ponds, lakes, marshes, streams with muddy bottoms, abundant aquatic vegetation and basking rocks and logs.

    How to Find

    From March through September, use binoculars to search basking sites of ponds and lakes.
    They may also be seen swimming at the surface of water bodies. They get their name from the rapid way they slide off basking sites.

    Photo of Habitat for  Red-eared Slider courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Habitat for  Red-eared Slider courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

    Distribution in Maryland

    This species is not native to Maryland. It is naturally found in the southern United States and was introduced by people releasing pet turtles into the wild. Currently, they can be found in the north and central parts of the state, as far south as Prince George's County.

    Maryland Distribution Map for Red-eared Slider

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.