The red-eared slider is native to the Mississippi Valley region of the United States of America, in the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Introduced populations occur in other United States states outside the species’ natural range, and in Canada.
Introduced or feral populations occur worldwide because the slider is commonly traded as a pet or food item. Feral populations occur in Panama, Guyana, Brazil and Chile, in South Africa, as well as in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Israel and Bahrain. They are also common in many Asian countries including Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Feral populations also occur on the following islands; Marianas, Guam, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Caymans, Bahamas, Bermuda, Lesser Antilles and Mascarenes.
Other feral slider populations occur in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Lithuania and Russia. However, these populations are not considered to be self-sustaining, because the winters are too cold for successful breeding. Released or escaped sliders are also sometimes reported in the wild in New Zealand.
In Australia, feral populations have been found in urban and semi-rural areas in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Sliders have been found in the wild in Victoria and Western Australia.
In its natural and introduced range the red-eared slider is highly adaptable, occupying most freshwater habitats as well as having some tolerance to brackish water. It prefers still bodies of water with muddy, soft bottoms, abundant aquatic plants and suitable sites for basking. It can be found in calm areas of slow moving rivers, streams, ponds and creeks, as well as in man-made canals, irrigation ditches, stock dams and various urban water bodies.
The slider spends a significant amount of time just floating (assisted by its inflatable throat), as well as basking on the shore and on logs or rocks close to the water’s edge. It will also bask on objects floating or projecting over water and it can climb bushes to heights of 1m.
It can survive cold winters by hibernating, including severe winters with extended periods of temperatures down to -10ºC.
Reproduction, food and behaviour
Courtship and mating occur during spring and autumn. The female slider digs nests in friable or sandy soil using her back feet, usually in the late afternoon or early evening. Two to 25 white, oval-shaped eggs are laid (more than one clutch per year is possible), and hatchlings emerge 60-75 days later.
The red-eared slider eats a wide range of plant and animal food. Foods eaten include snails and other molluscs, insect larvae and pupae, small fish, tadpoles, crustaceans and a range of aquatic plants. Carrion is also eaten. The slider is active during the day, foraging for food in shallow water usually less than 3m deep.
Individuals will pile up several deep at prime basking sites during the day. At night, sliders rest on the bottom beneath the water or float at the surface. They can travel (at least 5km) between water bodies to feed, find a mate, lay eggs, or search for a better site. However, the majority of movements are short, and most sliders lay their eggs within 500m of the home water body.
In the wild, the red-eared slider can live for about 30 years, but in captivity it can live for 40 years, and possibly up to 75 years.