The Peril of Red Eared Sliders

We’re often confronted with pet owners looking to re-home their Red Eared Slider Turtles. This comes as no surprise as RES are often illegally presented and sold as adorable little hatchlings in cute little plastic lagoons complete with plastic palm trees that almost anyone would have a hard time resisting. But, do resist.

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These turtles should not be released into local ponds because they are considered an invasive species.

A law was passed in 1975 prohibiting the sale of turtles with a carapace (upper shell) length of less than 4 inches. Unfortunately this law continues to be disregarded, especially by our local flea market vendors. Not only are the vendors ignoring the importance of the law, they also don’t have much knowledge to lend to new turtle owners.

If you do own a Red Eared Slider you should know that their upper shell (carapace) can reach up to 12 inches in length. A turtle of this size requires a very large enclosure and the care doesn’t stop there. Turtles are not like your average domestic cat or dog. If well cared for, these turtles can live more than 40 years. Their care can be quite involved, costly, and requires a lot of continued maintenance. If you don’t have the conditions of your turtle enclosure just right and species specific then you will end up with a sick turtle and that will result in very costly vet bills.  Proper heat, lighting, and substrate are required to maintain a healthy turtle habitat.

Some RES owners find that the best solution is to release their turtle into a local pond. DON’T! This is the worst thing that you can do. Red Eared Sliders are considered an invasive species in South Carolina. Releasing them in local waters can cause harm not only to your pet turtle, but to the natural habitat and existence of our native turtles.

Turtles are greatly affected by habitat loss, many native species are now protected and at risk. Invasive species of any kind being introduced into a new area will wreak havoc among native species.

Carolina Wildlife Center will be offering a Turtle Workshop this spring and invites anyone interested in these amazing creatures to come and learn. For more information about the workshop or any other turtle questions contact me, Julie McKenzie at julie@carolinawildlife.org

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