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TX Press: Wild About TX: Red ear slider

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Wed Dec 22 11:49:00 2010  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

STANDARD TIMES (San Angelo, Texas) 18 December 10 Wild About Texas: The red-eared slider (Michael Price)
San Angelo, Texas: Many people have an aversion to reptiles, particularly snakes. However, when they realize turtles are as much reptiles as their legless cousins, their stance on this group of ectothermic animals often shifts.
Many people have fond memories of when they were kids and the ‚Äúfive and dime‚ÄĚ stores sold little green turtles as pets. These little green turtles were the common red-eared slider that thrives in this state.
Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) naturally occur in just about every area of this state, with the western edges of the Panhandle and far West Texas being the exceptions. From here, they range all the way east to the Mississippi Valley.
However, they have been introduced into just about every state in the union through careless pet owners who have released them into the wild. They can now be found in every continent except Antarctica.
This species of aquatic turtle occupies just about any lake, pond, canal, river or spring-fed creek in its range. All it needs to survive is a minimal amount of vegetation for cover and feeding.
As the name implies, the most obvious characteristic used in identifying this species is the broad red stripe that runs diagonally from the corner of the eye to the back of the head, where the ear is located. This red ‚Äúear‚ÄĚ is most visible on younger turtles. The carapace, or top shell, is olive, green or brownish, with many yellow lines that run vertically on the scales.
The bottom shell, or plastron, is yellowish with many irregular circles on each scale. The legs and neck are green, and like the carapace, are marked with many thin yellow lines. Occasionally, all of these colorations on older adult males will fade to the point that the turtle is just olive-black in overall coloration, including the telltale red ‚Äúear.‚ÄĚ
This native turtle is medium size, with sexually mature adults ranging in carapace size from 7 inches to 1 foot in length. Females are the larger sex, attaining lengths of up to 1 foot, while the males are much smaller, only attaining a carapace length of about 8 inches. Mature males also can be distinguished from the females by their elongated nails on the front legs.
Mating occurs in the spring, beginning with the male stroking the female along her head with his elongated nails in a bizarre yet romantic courtship. After mating, the female will lay her clutch of eight to 17 eggs in late spring. To do so, many females will travel long distances over land to find a suitable nesting area. Many are killed along roadways during this time, and many more are picked up by well-intentioned people who want to release them back into the water, all the while unknowingly disrupting the female’s nesting pattern.
Once the eggs are laid in the nest, which the mother digs out with her hind legs, they incubate for two to three months. Once the young hatch, they must make the perilous journey back to the water on their own.
Red-eared sliders are by far the most commonly noticed aquatic turtle in the state, with large groups often congregating in the same area to bask on logs, rocks and other debris in the water.
They also are a good example of how animals that have been in captivity should not be released back into the wild, especially in an area where they do not naturally occur. This species has been propagated and sold commercially for over six decades.
Most of these specimens either have died or were released into areas where they were not native, and the local wildlife is now suffering.
For example, the presence of red-eared sliders in places such as the pools at Cuatrocienegas, Coahuila, Mexico, has taken a toll on the native slider turtle that occurs there and only there.
It is now rare to find an endemic slider in Cuatrocienegas that does not have the genetic influence of the nonnative red-ear.
It is always the responsible duty of a pet owner to find a foster home for their pet when it is unwanted.
Wild About Texas: The red-eared slider


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  • You Are HereTX Press: Wild About TX: Red ear slider - W von Papinešu, Wed Dec 22 11:49:00 2010

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