The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Trachemys scripta elegans
Trachemys scripta elegans
(Red-eared Slider)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Trachemys scripta elegans (Wied-Neuwied, 1838)

Common name: Red-eared Slider

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Trachemys s. elegans (Wied-Neuwied, 1838), the Red-eared Slider, has a unique, broad red or orange (rarely yellow) stripe behind each eye (Ernst et al, 1994; Conant and Collins, 1998).  Younger individuals have numerous dark, eyelike spots on the yellow plastron (Conant and Collins, 1998).  

Trachemys scripta, usually T. s. elegans, is probably the most widely illustrated turtle in the world, appearing in numerous publications (Carr, 1952; Smith, 1961; Ernst and Barbour, 1972, 1989; Mount, 1975; Behler and King, 1979; Pritchard, 1979; Sengoku, 1979; Smith and Smith, 1979; Martof et al., 1980; Caldwell and Collins, 1981; Smith and Brodie, 1982; DeGraaf and Rudis, 1983; Pritchard and Trebbau, 1984; [Mathui], 1985; Stebbins, 1985; Garrett and Barker, 1987; Green and Pauley, 1987; Alderton, 1988; Christiansen and Bailey, 1988; [Sievert] and Sievert, [1988]; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Harding and Holman, 1990; Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Leviton et al., 1992; Collins, 1993; Collins and Collins, 1993; Ernst et al., 1994; Mitchell, 1994; Brown et al., 1995; Palmer and Braswell, 1995; Degenhardt et al., 1996; McKeown, 1996; Harding, 1997; Lamar, 1997; Branch, 1998; Campbell, 1998; Conant and Collins, 1998; Cox et al., 1998; Powell et al., 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999a, b; Behler, 1999; Phillips et al., 1999; Johnson, 2000; Minton, 2001).

Size: carapace length of 125-289 mm

Native Range: The Red-eared Slider's indigenous range broadly covers the midwestern states and extending as far east as West Virginia and a disjunct (relict) population in southern Ohio, as far west as eastern New Mexico, and as far south as south of the Rio Grande River into northeastern Mexico (Smith, 1961; Webb, 1970; Smith and Smith, 1973, 1976, 1979, 1993; Green and Pauley, 1978; Caldwell and Collins, 1981; Lohoefener and Altig, 1983; Garrett and Barker, 1987; Christiansen and Bailey, 1988; Carpenter and Krupa, 1989; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Collins and Collins, 1993; Flores-Villela, 1993; Degenhardt et al., 1996; Conant and Collins, 1998; Ballinger and Lynch, 1999; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999b; Phillips et al., 1999; Auth et al., 2000; Dixon, 2000; Johnson, 2000; Stuart, 2000; Minton, 2001). Archeological evidence from Native American middens shows that they were historically present near Saginaw, MI (Holman, 1994; Harding and Mifsud 2017)

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Trachemys scripta elegans are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AZ196220224Hassayampa; Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Salt; Rillito
CA1976202432Aliso-San Onofre; California; Central Coastal; Coyote; Los Angeles; Lower American; Lower Sacramento; Lower San Joaquin River; Mattole; Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi-Grapevine; Mojave; Monterey Bay; Russian; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Francisco Bay; San Francisco Coastal South; San Gabriel; San Pablo Bay; Santa Ana; Santa Barbara Coastal; Santa Monica Bay; South Fork American; South Fork Kern; Suisun Bay; Tomales-Drake Bays; Upper Cache; Upper Coon-Upper Auburn; Upper Cosumnes; Upper Deer-Upper White; Upper Mokelumne; Upper Putah
CO1984202216Big Thompson; Cache La Poudre; Clear; Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Fountain; Lower White; Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek; Middle South Platte-Sterling; North Fork Republican; Roaring Fork; San Luis; St. Vrain; Two Butte; Uncompahgre; Upper Arkansas; Upper South Platte
CT198020224New England Region; Quinnipiac; Saugatuck; Thames
FL1958202229Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Big Cypress Swamp; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Econfina-Steinhatchee; Everglades; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Manatee; Oklawaha; Peace; Pensacola Bay; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Southern Florida; St. Marys; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Upper Suwannee; Vero Beach; Withlacoochee
GA201220213Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Ocmulgee; Upper Oconee
HI199620234Hawaii; Kauai; Maui; Oahu
ID201220163Lower Boise; Palouse; Upper Snake-Rock
IL200920091Lower Wabash
IN193120186Driftwood; Lower Wabash; St. Joseph; Tippecanoe; Upper White; Wildcat
IA197820133East Nishnabotna; Lower Cedar; Lower Wapsipinicon
ME198719872Lower Kennebec River; Presumpscot
MD199120224Gunpowder-Patapsco; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Patuxent
MA197520215Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Cape Cod; Charles; Concord River; Outlet Connecticut River
MI192420247Black-Macatawa; Detroit; Huron; Muskegon; Pere Marquette-White; Raisin; Upper Grand
MN201420147Des Moines Headwaters; Le Sueur; South Fork Crow; Twin Cities; Upper Mississippi-Black-Root; Watonwan; Zumbro
MT200820172Upper Missouri; Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin
NE198320206Big Papillion-Mosquito; Blackbird-Soldier; Salt; South Fork Big Nemaha; Tarkio-Wolf; Upper Big Blue
NV201620221Las Vegas Wash
NJ197620247Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Mullica-Toms; Raritan; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NM199420003Elephant Butte Reservoir; Rio Grande-Albuquerque; Tularosa Valley
NY1995202210Bronx; Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Hackensack-Passaic; Hudson-Wappinger; Lower Genesee; Lower Hudson; Northern Long Island; Rondout; Sandy Hook-Staten Island; Southern Long Island
NC1915202211Albemarle; Deep; Haw; Lower Catawba; Pigeon; Rocky; Upper Catawba; Upper Dan; Upper French Broad; Upper Neuse; Upper Yadkin
OH195120152Ashtabula-Chagrin; Walhonding
OR199120229Lost; Lower Willamette; Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula; Middle Rogue; Pacific Northwest Region; South Umpqua; Tualatin; Umpqua; Upper Willamette
PA1996202314Brandywine-Christina; Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Lehigh; Lower Delaware; Lower Juniata; Lower Monongahela; Lower Susquehanna; Lower Susquehanna-Penns; Lower Susquehanna-Swatara; Lower West Branch Susquehanna; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Schuylkill; Upper Ohio; Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna
PR200720184Cibuco-Guajataca; Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rican Islands; Southern Puerto Rico
SC199520226Calibogue Sound-Wright River; Coastal Carolina; Cooper; Saluda; Seneca; South Carolina Coastal
TN201420191South Fork Holston
TX192920015Pedernales; Rio Grande-Fort Quitman; Salt Basin; Tierra Blanca; Toyah
VA198020228Hampton Roads; Lower James; Lower Rappahannock; Lynnhaven-Poquoson; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Pamunkey; Shenandoah; Upper Dan
WA199520226Lake Washington; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Lower Crab; Lower Yakima; Puget Sound; Snohomish
WI200520206Coon-Yellow; Des Plaines; Lower Wisconsin; Middle Rock; Milwaukee; Upper Rock

Table last updated 6/21/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Pond sliders are aquatic, omnivorous generalists, which rarely leave water except to bask (Ernst et al., 1994; Brown et al., 1995; Conant and Collins, 1998; Cox et al., 1998).  Adult turtles tend to be more herbivorous than juveniles, but both will opportunistically eat aquatic invertebrates (especially insects and mollusks), fish, frog eggs and tadpoles, aquatic snakes, and a wide variety of aquatic plants and algae (Ernst et al., 1994; Brown et al., 1995).  Although they prefer quiet waters, T. elegans is highly adaptable and can tolerate anything from brackish waters, to manmade canals, and city park ponds (Ernst et al., 1994; Cox et al., 1998; Salzberg, 2000).  The Red-eared Slider may wander far from water, and rapidly colonize any newly available habitat (Cox et al., 1998; Minton, 2001).  In California, this ability to rapidly colonize available habitat may be aided by an extensive system of manmade canals and irrigation ditches.  Females lay 2-23 eggs per clutch in a cavity dug out of the soil, and as many as five clutches may be oviposited per year (Gibbons, 1990; Ernst et al., 1994).

Means of Introduction: Throughout its nonindigenous range T. scripta is introduced primarily through pet releases and escapes; a situation which has continued for several decades since the 1930s, reaching a peak during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle television cartoon craze of the late 1980s-early 1990s (Ernst et al., 1994; Mitchell, 1994; Brown et al., 1995; Frank and McCoy, 1995; Lamar, 1997; Branch, 1998; Cox et al., 1998; Albright, 1999; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999a; Ota, 1999; Williams, 1999; Beebee and Griffiths, 2000; Salzberg, 2000; Thomas and Hartnell, 2000; Minton, 2001; Porras, 2002).  Additionally, most species of turtles are subject to intense commercial trade in the Asian food market (Williams, 1999); therefore, the transport and potential release of T. scripta for food and aquaculture in Asia and U.S. Pacific states with proportionally large Asian populations cannot be ruled out.  Stebbins (1985) claims that pond sliders may have been introduced to Baja California, Mexico, for food; but his identity of this species as T. scripta is uncertain.

As recently as 2001, a Dutch animal welfare group attempted to ship unwanted pet T. s. elegans to Italy for eventual nonindigenous release into the wild (M. Hoogmoed and J. Perala as communicated to K. Dodd, personal communication 2001).

Status: In nearly all of its nonindigenous localities in Canada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and perhaps Massachusetts, isolated populations of T. s. elegans are reproducing and thriving (Stein et al., 1980; Manchester, 1982; DeGraaf and Rudis, 1983; Harding and Holman, 1990; Cardoza et al., 1993; Ernst et al., 1994; Mitchell, 1994; D'Alessandro and Ernst, 1995; Palmer and Braswell, 1995; Platt and Snyder, 1996; Harding, 1997; Salzberg, 2000; Breisch et al., 2001; R. Burke, personal communication 1997; A. Hulse, personal communication 1997); although Klemens (1993) questions whether T. s. elegans eggs can hatch at colder latitudes in Connecticut.   Klemens (1993) may be unaware of breeding populations found in Ontario, Canada, and Michigan; therefore; his doubts probably have no basis in fact.  In the state of New York, T. s. elegans seem to be invasive, particularly on Long Island; however, it is unclear if related T. s. scripta, a race that prefers a warmer climate, can reproduce or even survive long at this latitude.  Nonindigenous Yellow-bellied Sliders are established in Fairfax County, northern Virginia (Ernst et al., 1997).


The Red-eared Sliders found in Cumberland and Kennebec Counties, Maine, are surviving through the winter months, but it is not known if they are reproducing (Albright, 1999).

In Maryland, Red-eared Sliders are well established and invasive in a broad region throughout much of the northern and central portions of the state (Harris, 1975; Conant and Collins, 1998).

In Florida, most small populations of T. s. elegans are established in limited, small colonies (Moler, 1988; Ashton and Ashton, 1991; Bartlett, 1994; Dalrymple, 1994; Butterfield et al., 1997; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999a; King, 2000; Townsend et al., 2002), except for those discovered in the Keys where there is yet no evidence of reproductive colonies (Butterfield et al., 1994; Duquesnel, 1996).  A forthcoming assessment of the status of nonindigenous pond sliders in Florida will be made by Meshaka et al. (2003).

There is no evidence for an established population of nonindigenous T. s. elegans in Wisconsin (Cochran et al., 1987).

The current populations of T. s. elegans in Marion County, Indiana, are established and spreading, yet it is not clear if they represent an indigenous migration or nonindigenous introduction (Minton, 2001).

In Nebraska, there do not seem to be any current, established, nonindigenous T. s. elegans, and the only indigenous population occurs in Richardson County in the extreme southeast corner of the state (Ballinger and Lynch, 1999).

All Red-eared Sliders found in Colorado seem to be waifs from pet releases (Livo et al., 1998); therefore, this species is not listed by Hammerson (1999) as being part of Colorado's herpetofauna.

Nonindigenous populations of T. s. elegans in western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona seem to be established (Hulse, 1980; Stebbins, 1985; Jones, 1988; Stuart, 1995a, 2000; Degenhardt et al., 1996; Howland, 1996; Dixon, 2000; M. Demlong, personal communication 1997), and the populations in the Rio Grande drainage in New Mexico are probably invasive.  The T. s. scripta found in Arizona and the Rio Grande drainage of New Mexico do not yet represent established populations (Hulse, 1980; Stuart, 1995b, 2000; Degenhardt et al., 1996), but future surveys are required to establish this.

In the Pacific states of California, Oregon, and Washington, T. s. elegans is well established in numerous localities (Brown et al., 1995; Williams, 1999; Dvornich et al., 2001; D. Holland, personal communication 1997; L. Overtree, personal communication 1997; H. B. Schaffer, personal communication 2000; J. Abel, personal communication 2001).  The records provided in this review may greatly underestimate the distribution of T. scripta in these states.

In Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, T. s. elegans is established but impacts are unclear (McCoid, 1993; Ernst et al., 1994; McCoid and Kleberg, 1995; McKeown, 1996).

Red-eared Sliders are well established on Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles (Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Censky and Kaiser, 1999).

In most cases, T. s. elegans seem to be established in its various non-U.S., worldwide localities mentioned above (Ernst et al., 1994; Lamar, 1997; Cox et al., 1998; Salzberg, 2000; Minton, 2001), except perhaps, New Zealand (Thomas and Hartnell, 2000).  However, Beebee and Griffiths (2000) do not believe summers in the United Kingdom are long enough or warm enough for successful incubation of T. s. elegans eggs.  In various parts of Southeast Asia, Red-eared Sliders are present (Cox et al., 1998).

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EcologicalEconomicHuman HealthOther

Trachemys scripta compete with indigenous species for food and basking sites (Frank and McCoy, 1995; Williams, 1999; Salzberg, 2000).  In the U.S. state of Washington, they are a potential threat to Clemmys marmorata, the Pacific pond turtle (Williams, 1999), a declining species endemic to the Pacific states (Brown et al., 1995). 

The spread of Red-eared Sliders in southern U.S. states, where the closely related Yellow-bellied Slider is indigenous, has the potential for T. s. elegans to compete with T. s. scripta.  Additionally, interbreeding between the two races has occurred in various southern states (Ernst et al., 1994; Mitchell, 1994; Palmer and Braswell, 1995; Williams, 1999), which compromises the genetic integrity of indigenous Yellow-bellied Sliders.  In New Mexico, T. s. elegans can cause a similar problem by hybridizing with Trachemys gaigae (Seidel et al., 1999; Stuart, 2000).

Aquaculture of Red-eared Sliders for the pet trade are often associated with the threat of salmonellosis in children who receive them as pets (Williams, 1999), but it could negatively impact indigenous wild turtles when released pets spread diseases and parasites into the environment (Stuart, 2000).

Remarks: The most current taxonomic reviews or summaries of pond sliders are by Seidel (1988, 2002), Seidel et al. (1999), and Iverson et al. (2000).  Liner (1994) provides a list of regional vernacular names for T. scripta.  The best summaries or literature reviews of the natural history of T. scripta are by Gibbons and Semlitsch (1991), Ernst et al. (1994), and various studies compiled by Gibbons (1990).  Scientific and standard English names follow Crother (2008).

Pond sliders are commercially raised in incredibly large numbers for the pet trade throughout the southeastern U.S., especially Louisiana (Ernst et al., 1994; Williams, 1999; Salzberg, 2000).  The sale of all turtles under the size of "4 inches" (about 100 mm) or viable eggs was banned in the United States, except for educational or research purposes, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1975 to prevent the spread of salmonellosis in children (Ernst et al., 1994; Level, 1997; Williams, 1999).  Four inches or less is thought to be the size that a child can easily stuff into his mouth (Williams, 1999).  The extensive use of antibiotics at turtle hatcheries in the U.S. has given rise to more antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella (Ernst et al., 1994).  In many U.S. states T. s. elegans is the subject of specific regulation (Level, 1997).  Nevertheless, undersized juvenile T. scripta are still commonly sold in pet stores in Florida, and as recently as 2002 they were sold by roadside venders at a busy intersection in Gainesville, Florida (Somma, personal observation).  The European Union has banned the import of T. s. elegans because of the negative impact that released pets can have on native European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis species complex) (Williams, 1999).

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Author: Somma, L.A., Foster, A., Fuller, P. and C. Cameron

Revision Date: 4/3/2024

Citation Information:
Somma, L.A., Foster, A., Fuller, P. and C. Cameron, 2024, Trachemys scripta elegans (Wied-Neuwied, 1838): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1261, Revision Date: 4/3/2024, Access Date: 6/21/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/21/2024].

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