Red-Eared Slider

Trachemys scripta elegans

Emydidae (basking, marsh and box turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)


One of the most common semi-aquatic turtles in Missouri. The color of the upper shell is olive-brown with numerous black and yellow lines. The lower shell is yellow with a large dark brown blotch on each scute. The head and limbs are dark green with narrow black and yellow lines. A distinct red or orange stripe is normally present on each side of the head behind the eye. Old males are often covered with an excess of black pigment that obscures both the red stripes and the yellow ones.


Length: 5–8 inches.


Video of a red-eared slider in the wild.

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared slider laying eggs in Camden County
Red-eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider

A moss-covered turtle suns on a log. Its red ear markings are visible, as are its long claws and webbed hind feet.
A red-eared slider in Fenton, MO
Habitat and conservation

Can live in a variety of aquatic habitats, including rivers, sloughs, oxbow lakes and constructed lakes and ponds, as long as there is ample aquatic vegetation for both food and security, and suitable basking sites. A mud bottom is preferred.


They eat aquatic plants and animals. Foraging takes place in early morning and late afternoon.

image of Red-Eared Slider Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for a few northern counties.



Life cycle

This species spends much time basking in the sun on logs or rocks. The name “slider” comes from their habit of sliding quickly into the water from their basking spots. They become active in March and remain active until mid-October. Courtship and mating occur between March and June. Females leave the water and lay up to 22 eggs in a clutch. Hatching usually takes place in late summer or early autumn.

Human connections

Millions of these turtles were sold as pets before 1975, with most of them dying due to improper care. Sales were curtailed when it was learned that the turtles or their water could potentially transmit salmonella to their handlers, including children.

Ecosystem connections

In their native land, these turtles fill a role of herbivore and mid-level carnivore. However, American-bred sliders are being supplied to the pet trade in Europe and Asia, where some have been released to the wild. There, they are causing a decline of native species, especially in southern Europe.