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May Red Eared Slider Hatchlings be Legally Bought and Sold?

Although Slider hatchlings (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been banned from the US pet trade by the Food and Drug Administration since 1975, the tiny green turtles are still regularly offered for sale in certain areas, creating confusion for aspiring turtle owners.

History of the Law

Red Eared Slider HatchlingUnder the law, turtles less than 4 inches in length may not be sold, regardless of the species.  The sale of larger turtles is regulated by state law (the 4 inch rule is a bit confusing, more on that in a future article).

Traditionally, turtles were considered prime carriers of Salmonella bacteria… the law was enacted in response to over ¼ million annual cases of Salmonellosis among turtle owners in the early 70’s.  Salmonellosis can cause meningitis and miscarriage, and may be fatal to children, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals.

“Safe Sliders” to Force Policy Change?

According to commercial turtle farmers, however, the situation has changed in the 30+ years since the ban went into effect.  Farmers claim they are now able to produce Salmonella-free hatchlings, and that effective pre-treatment before sale could be used as additional insurance.

In 2007 Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu introduced legislation seeking to legalize the sale of Salmonella-free Red Eared Slider hatchlings (Louisiana is home to an estimated 80 turtle farms).  Last month (April, 2010), the Louisiana District Court ruled that the FDA has not adequately addressed the issue, and directed that further consideration be given to legalizing the sale of small turtles.

So, the ban remains in effect for the time being, but the situation may change in the future.

What to Do?

You can contact the FDA (888-463-0332) regarding violations of the turtle sale rule.  If you own a hatchling, ask your local humane society for advice, but do not release it.  The Center for Disease Control provides safety guidelines for turtle owners.

It is important to keep in mind that the irresistible little turtles grow rapidly into large, active animals.  Proper care entails full-spectrum lighting, a heated, filtered aquarium (of 75-100 gallon capacity for adults) and a well-balanced diet.  Do not purchase sick turtles in hope of curing them, as this is a difficult prospect even for a veterinarian.  Rather, report the matter to your local humane society.

Learning More

Red Eared Slider laying eggRed Eared Sliders turn up in the unlikeliest of places…I’ve found them in sites ranging from the Bronx River to temple ponds in Japan; please see Typical and Atypical Slider Habitats for more info and photos.

Please check out this recent Mississippi Newspaper Article for a turtle farmer’s view.


Red eared Slider Hatchling image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jf268
Red eared Slider Laying Egg image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nephets

A Survey of Amphibians, Reptiles and Insects Suitable for Maintenance in Outdoor Ponds – Part II, The Red-Eared Slider, Chrysemys scripta elegans

During our last look at outdoor ponds  I discussed an ideal amphibian inhabitant, the American bullfrog.  Today I’ll introduce a reptile that is equally at home outdoors, the red-eared slider.

A Better Outdoor Than Indoor Pet
Red-Eared Slider, Blanding's Turtle, Eastern Painted, Wood Turtle Basking The Red-Eared Slider is the world’s most popular pet turtle.  The small green hatchlings were previously sold by the millions throughout the USA, but government restrictions have now limited the availability of animals under 4 inches in length (pending legislation may change that situation in the future).

However, sliders are not well suited to indoor aquariums, as they are very active and females can reach a shell length of 12 inches or so.  A turtle of that size needs a tank of at least 55-75 gallon capacity, along with a very powerful filter to maintain water quality.  Even in aquariums of that size, however, these vigorous turtles are cramped.

Sunlight and Diet
Sliders make interesting, attractive inhabitants of garden pools if given enough space and easy access to sunny basking spots. Like most turtles, they require unfiltered sunlight in order to form the vitamin D that is necessary to process calcium and build strong shells (exceptions to this rule are certain largely aquatic, non-basking species, such as snapping turtles, musk turtles, and soft-shelled turtles).

Red-eared sliders will readily consume Repto-min, earthworms, crickets, mealworms, prawn and canned insects, and will do their best to catch small fishes and tadpoles.  They usually will coexist quite well with larger goldfish and sunfish, if there is ample room for the fish to avoid the turtles.  Adults may consume some types of pond vegetation, but if provided with romaine, dandelion, kale and other greens, they will often leave ornamental plants alone.

Other Turtles
Other turtles of similar habits that do well in outdoor ponds are the Eastern painted turtle, Chrysemys picta picta (and subspecies, such as the Midland, Western and Southern painted turtles) and the various Map Turtles, Graptemys spp.  The largely aquatic musk turtle, Sternotherus odoratus, does well even in quite small pools.

Enclosing the Pond
Eastern Redbelly Turtle BaskingSemi-aquatic turtles often remain near their pond, even if it is unfenced, but males may move away in search of females during the breeding season, and gravid females will seek out suitable nesting areas.  Bear in mind also that raccoons are very adept at preying upon even quite large turtles.

Useful information on constructing and maintaining an outdoor turtle pond is posted at:

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