The Red-eared Slider is an introduced species in British Columbia. Nesting has been reported in the Gulf Islands, Burnaby Lake (Knopp, pers. Comm. 2009), and at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 2012 (Marsh Notes 2012)--nesting at Reifel was reported on May 23rd. Whether or not these are successful nest sites is unknown.
There is no information on when this species arrived in BC. "The history of sliders in the pet trade in BC goes back at least to the 1960s" Gregory, (pers. comm. 2021, email).
The Pond Slider (Turtle) (Trachemys scripta) is a species of turtle that is native to the southern United States but has been introduced and is now commonly found in British Columbia. It is not to be confused with the Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata), which is native to the Pacific Northwest but is now considered to be extirpated from Canada. There are three recognized subspecies of the Pond Slider, including the Trachemys scripta elegans (Red-eared Slider), which is often seen basking on logs throughout the southern part of the province. It is recognizable because of its noticeable red 'ear'. The red stripe on each side of the head distinguishes the Red-eared Slider from other North American species, although the red stripe on the sides of the head may be difficult to see or be absent, particularly in older turtles. Oder males can sometimes have a melanistic coloration being a dark grayish olive green, with markings being very subdued. Other colour morphs occur with this species, including a yellow-eared form which confuses the situation. To the untrained eye, the species is easily confused with the native Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta).
Courtship and mating activities for Red-eared Sliders usually occur between March and July, and take place underwater. The male swims toward the female and flutters or vibrates the back side of his long claws on and around her face and head. The female swims toward the male and, if she is receptive, sinks to the bottom for mating. If the female is not receptive, she may become aggressive towards the male. The courtship can take up to forty-five minutes, but the mating itself usually takes only ten to fifteen minutes.
Sometimes a male will appear to be courting another male. This is actually a sign of dominance and they may begin to fight. Juveniles may display the courtship dance, but until the turtles are five years of age they are not mature and are unable to mate.
After mating, the female spends extra time basking in order to keep her eggs warm. She may also have a change of diet, eating only certain foods or not eating as much as she normally would. Mating begins in May and egg-laying occurs in May through early July. A female might lay from two to thirty eggs, with larger females having larger clutches. One female can lay up to five clutches in the same year and clutches are usually spaced twelve to thirty-six days apart. Turtle eggs are fertilized as they are being laid and buried in the sand. The time between mating and egg laying can be days or weeks.
Eggs hatch sixty to ninety days after they have been laid. Late season hatchlings may spend the winter in the nest and emerge when the weather warms in the spring. Just prior to hatching, the egg contains 50% Turtle and 50% egg sac. New hatchlings break open their egg with an egg tooth, which falls out about an hour after hatching. This egg tooth never grows back. Hatchlings may stay inside their eggshells after hatching for the first day or two. When a hatchling decides to leave the shell, it has a small sac protruding from its bottom plastron. The yolk sac is vital and provides nourishment while visible and several days after it has been absorbed into the turtle's belly.
Red-eared Sliders are omnivores and eat a variety of animal and plant materials in the wild including, but not limited to fish, crayfish, carrion, tadpoles, snails, crickets, wax worms, aquatic insects and numerous aquatic plant species. Younger turtles tend to be more carnivorous (eat more animal protein) than adults do. As they grow larger and older, they become increasingly herbivorous.
Red-eared Sliders are almost entirely aquatic, but leave the water to bask in the sun and lay eggs. These reptiles are deceptively fast and are also excellent swimmers. They hunt for prey and will attempt to capture it when the opportunity presents itself. They are very aware of predators and people and generally shy away from them. The Red-eared Slider is known to frantically slide off rocks and logs when approached.
This species is found in ponds and lakes across the southern part of British Columbia. They are very noticeable in ponds and lakes in Greater Vancouver, where continuous release of pets supplements populations.
In North America, the Red-eared Slider is native to the southern United States. It has been introduced in other regions in North America, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom via the pet trade.
The Red-eared Slider may compete with native Painted Turtles and could be a source of disease that could affect our native turtles (Matsuda et al. 2006). It is for these reasons that biologists request that former pet turtles NOT be released in local ponds; while it may serve in the best interests of the pet turtle, it may lead to disease problems and other conservation issues associated with native turtles and local wildlife already residing in the pond. It is for these reasons that it is also illegal to do so, and those who no longer want to care for their former pets should seek a more responsible means to pass on their pets such as reptile refuges or other similar organizations.
There are thirteen recognized subspecies of the Pond Slider. Trachemys scripta elegans, the Red-eared Slider, is the one most commonly found in British Columbia.
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC:
Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab
for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed:
2022-12-08 7:35:24 PM]
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