Can Red Eared Slider Bite You?

red eared slider

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Believe it or not! The turtles can sometimes get violent enough to snap a human finger. Take snapping turtles as an example. But what about red eared sliders? Can these innocent-looking turtles bite their companions or owners?

Red eared sliders can bite the owners and each other if the situation demands. Generally, turtles tend to attack and hurt their opponents when they feel threatened. But luckily, the turtle’s bite is not dangerous.

Catch more on the red eared slider’s biting habit below.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Humans?

Red eared are more friendly and interactive than most other species. No wonder why they are nominated as the perfect beginner turtles.

But hey! You can not take this goodness for granted and treat the turtles as you wish. If maltreated, red eared sliders will not think twice before attacking you. 

The common form of self-defense for turtles is biting. Well, yes, the turtle will retract to the shells when they feel threatened. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, the pets will just go for a stinging bite. 

I know owners treat their pet red eared sliders with care. However, frequent touching or other stress-inducing factors can make the turtles feel insecure.

Say you have just bought the hatchlings home and tried to pet them. The chances are the turtles are not yet accustomed to the environment or you, and so they will lash back at you.

Red eared sliders may also bite the owners by mistake. When feeding the pets, they can mistake your finger for food and nibble on it with their sharp beak.

The same incident might occur when you roam around your turtles barefoot. Your pets can take the toe fingers as worms. Hence, they will go for a bite.

Why Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Humans?

Do not worry. Your pet red eared slider does not hate you. Instead, the biting is either a mistake or just a situational thing.

Here are 5 reasons why your red eared slider can bite you, 

1. You Are Not Handling The Pet Right!

Red eared sliders are docile but do not like touching or petting like dogs. So, if you touch the turtles frequently, you may end up stressing them out. Hence, the pets will detect you as a threat and bite you. 

The same thing will occur if you mishandle the turtles. For example, turtles might bite if you are not gentle when transferring or holding them. 

2. You Are Too Close!

As mentioned, red eared sliders can mistake your toes and fingers for food. So, there is a high chance of getting picked if you hand-feed the turtles. Again, the turtle can bite you for keeping your hand close to its mouth during any task. 

3. The Pet Is Stressed & Vulnerable

Honestly, turtles feel vulnerable in a new or uncomfortable environment. For example, constant noise or excess brightness makes the turtles anxious. Pets with anxiety can attack their owners. 

Again, improper care sheets are also enough to stress out the turtles. For example, improper temperature, crowded space, inadequate food, etc. Any interaction with the stressed turtle can evoke the pet to bite you.

4. Is It Hungry? 

Sometimes, biting just means that the red eared slider is hungry and looking for food. So, the starving turtle may bite you to get your attention. 

5. The Turtle Is Being Protective

Well, red eared sliders are not the best mothers. I agree. Yet, they are protective of their nesting site.

For instance, you will probably get bitten if you disturb a nesting red eared slider.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Each Other?

Red eared sliders can bite their relatives, other turtle species, or any predators. Well, insecurity is the primary reason behind such hostile behavior of these turtles. Generally, turtles bite predators or opponents when they feel threatened.

However, sometimes the biting, nipping, and kicking indicate bullying in the red eared sliders. Yes, these innocent little turtles are experts at bullying.

Usually, the strong turtles, especially males, pick on the weak ones, especially females and babies. The red eared sliders bully each other to establish social power or simply because they do not like each other’s company.

Sometimes, the biting battle between the red eared sliders is solely due to territorial issues. The lack of moving space, congested basking, and insufficient food will stress the turtles. As a result, the tank mates will fight each other to survive on the low supply.

Why Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Each Other?

You already have a basic idea of the probable reasons for red eared slider’s biting behavior. If you dig deep, you will find some more. Such as,

1. Congested Tank

A red eared slider can grow 12 – 16 inches. So, an enclosure of 100 gallons will suit the adult slider. But if you plan to raise multiple turtles, the aquarium size must increase accordingly. Otherwise, the turtles will pick up on each other and fight for space. 

2. Not Enough Food

Red eared sliders can go days or weeks without food. If there is available food, the pets will not starve intentionally. So, when you provide the turtles with insufficient meals, you force them to fight over the food for survival. 

3. Small Basking Area

Though aquatic species, red eared sliders bask more frequently. But if the dock is small and crowded, the turtles will start stacking. In many cases, the pets get involved in bitings and kicking to take the top position in the stack.

4. Power Play

Red eared sliders are greedy for social power. Bullying the weak and chasing them is fun for the strong adult turtles. It also proves their social dominance. 

5. Mating Frustration

Usually, turtles become pretty aggressive during mating. Biting, nipping, or ramming-induced injuries are common for copulated pairs. Again, the adult male red eared sliders can show hostile behavior when seducing partners for mating.

Is Red Eared Slider’s Bite Dangerous? 

Honestly, the red eared slider’s bites are not painful at all. At best, you will feel a pinch, nothing else. The sting will leave a reddishness or swelling on your skin. In the worst case, you will bleed, but nothing serious. 

However, red eared sliders may carry Salmonella bacteria. Unfortunately, this infection is contagious and can be transferred to humans via biting. Touching the infected turtles with bare hands also exposes the owners to Salmonella. 

But do not worry. It is not a deadly disease.

Nausea, vomiting, headache, abdomen pain, fever, and diarrhea are the common symptoms of Salmonella. You will be cured with medicine within a few days.

How Can You Avoid Red Eared Slider’s Bite?

Well, red eared sliders mostly go for an attack when they are aggressive. So, apart from being careful, if you can solve the stress factor in the turtle’s life, it will not act violently in the future. Some helpful tricks are,

  1. Be gentle when handling the red eared sliders. Place your fingers behind the rear legs when picking up or transferring the turtles. Also, keep your hands away from the pet’s head to avoid bites.
  2. Do not over-touch the turtle. Red eared sliders hate frequent petting.
  3. The surrounding should be quiet, with sufficient lighting for the red eared sliders.
  4. Manage a large enclosure for the pet with a spacious basking area. If you house multiple turtles in the same tank, make sure they get along.
  5. Provide the turtle with proper lighting and heating arrangements. Besides, the tank must have a high-quality filtration system. 
  6. Feed the red eared sliders in separate boxes to end food-related quarrels. 
  7. Choose the pairs carefully if you plan for a community red eared slider habitat. For example, adult male turtles do not get along with each other or any other groups. On the contrary, the females and baby red eared sliders will live peacefully. 
  8. As mentioned, the male red eared sliders become aggressive during mating. So when breeding the pets, put more females against one adult male. It will reduce the chance of injury or hostility. 
  9. Do not force the red eared sliders to live together if they do not get along. Separate the pets immediately.
  10. Make sure the pen has several hiding spots. This way, the turtles can cut off the world during stressful hours instead of being violent.
How To Take Care Of Baby Red Eared Sliders

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite With Teeth?

So, red eared sliders can bite. No doubt about that. But do these creatures have teeth? 

Surprisingly, turtles, including the red eared sliders, do not have teeth. Then how do these turtles manage to bite?

Red eared sliders are omnivorous. It means they consume both animal and plant matter. See, turtles feel no issue eating vegetables and greens as they are soft or mushy.

But they need sharp teeth to feast on the bony animal flesh or stiff insect. Thus, turtles developed a pointy ridge instead of teeth to enjoy the animal protein.

The red eared sliders use these same upper and lower jaw grooves to bite. In fact, this combination of sharp jaw and pointy beak helps the turtles to make a powerful bite.

Before You Go 

Do you know snapping turtles can bite off your fingers? Yes. Read more on the biting strength and technique of the species from the below article. 

Can Snapping Turtles Bite Off Fingers?

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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