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Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Bite People?

Nicole Cosgrove

Every turtle fancier will want to own a Red Eared Slider because they are cute, colorful, and keeping them is generally rewarding. However, every potential parent would have questions, and in particular, whether they bite and if they are poisonous.

Red Eared Sliders bite, and the bite can be quite painful. But it’s highly unlikely because these reptiles don’t bite “just because.” Instead, these reptiles bite if you push them too hard.

Thankfully, you can prevent this behavior. Keep reading for more insights on preventing Red Eared Slider turtles from biting people.

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Red Eared Slider Temperaments

red-eared slider turtle_matos11_Pixabay
Image Credit: matos11, Pixabay

These pet turtles usually measure anywhere between 7 to 12 inches long as adults. They are colorful and semi-aquatic, which means they split their time between land and water.

Red Eared Sliders make great pets. They are cute and often described as having mild temperaments.

These pets are friendly, more than other turtles, and can recognize their owners and even eat from their palms. However, Red Eared Sliders are still turtles, and generally, these creatures don’t love to be handled, touched, or played with. For this reason, your pet can grow to become aggressive and pose a danger to you, especially if you don’t know much about it.

You can notice a Red Eared Slider’s aggression during specific occasions; either over food, you’ve housed several of them together, or they feel threatened.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Humans?

red eared turtles_zoosnow, Pixabay
Image Credit: zoosnow, Pixabay

Red Eared Sliders don’t naturally get aggressive towards humans and can never turn on you over food. They only get wary of you and perceive you as a threat due to your size compared to their tiny frames.

So, if it feels threatened, the first instinct it’ll get is to defend itself by biting or nipping at you. Or, the pet can simply hide away in its shell until it feels there’s no more danger.

The turtle’s bite is painful, but it’s not dangerous or poisonous. The bite does not cause any real damage, although it can hurt kids with tiny fingers.

However, it’s better to leave the turtle alone if it appears fearful and threatened by you. It mostly happens when you bring it home for the first time.

The best thing to do is to leave it alone and give it time to relax. Plus, the whole relocation process stresses it out, so it may warm up to you if it calms down and settles in your home.

5 Reasons Why Red Eared Sliders Bite May Bite

These turtles are naturally not aggressive, so there must be something provoking them to bite. It can be anything like:

1. Putting Your Fingers Closer to Its Mouth

red eared slider in grass_Nobo Xious_Pixabay
Image Credit: Nobo Xious, Pixabay

Putting your finger right in the turtle’s biting range is pretty much calling for it. But, turtles, too, make mistakes, and it may mistake your finger for food, especially if the hand is in the water.

Or, it can be accidental, especially if you house your turtle in a pond outdoors. You may not be sure of the pet’s location, and it might nip at your hand when you are busy with garden maintenance.


2. Feeling Threatened

red eared slider_Raymond Halim_Pixabay
Image Credit: Raymond Halim, Pixabay

Relocation can be too much, from the bustle, the length of the journey, to settling in a new environment. In addition, the stress levels heighten after you bring it home, forcing it to get defensive and aggressive.

It’ll need time to acclimatize with the new environments and will naturally stay alert until it does. You may want to let your pet settle in for a few weeks before you start making physical advances.


3. Stress

red eared slider in rock_PublicDomainPictures_Pixabay
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

It could be just in a bad mood, too, sometimes. Unfortunately, it happens to every species on earth, including docile turtles.

A stressed Red Eared Slider will like to be alone, so it might bite if you interfere in any way.

It would be best to determine what could be stressing it and remove it. Check if it tends to hide too much, or take it to the vet if you can’t explain its mood.


4. Poor Feeding

red eared slider_Sergey_m_Pixabay
Image Credit: Sergey_m, Pixabay

Offering your pet less food will leave it yearning for an opportunity to eat. For this reason, it’ll bite you because it feels hungry.

But if you are offering your pet enough food and it still feels hungry, it might not be eating whatever you provide, thus starving itself. Therefore, you can create a varied diet plan for your pet so you can observe precisely the foods it likes.

You can be sure that a staple, healthy, well-balanced diet can solve this problem.


5. Protecting Its Eggs

red eared slider in water_Manfred Richter_Pixabay
Image Credit: Manfred Richter, Pixabay

Sea turtles do not return to their eggs once they lay and leave the eggs and the nest to fend for themselves. However, female Red Eared Sliders will create a nest, lay eggs, and stay beside them to protect them.

These pets can get aggressive during this time, and you may notice lots of hissing and biting.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Each Other?

red eared slider turtle_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Just like other wild animals, turtles establish a hierarchy in their group, and the biggest will usually get the best.

Aggression can be common if you house more than one turtle in the same tank. These pets will fight in the tank as everyone will be trying to protect their territory and basking spots.

Red Eared Sliders also bite each other over food. So if you provide less food, the biggest turtle will always get the first share, which may leave them fighting if there’s no enough food to go around.

The turtles can also fight and bite each other to prove dominance, especially if they are all males. Or, males can fight and bite females if the females do not allow them to mate.

Can You Get Infected from Their Bites?

red eared slider turtle on a rock
Image Credit: MrLebies, Pixabay

The good thing is that these bites aren’t venomous. However, you may want to avoid making close contact with these reptiles as they carry salmonella.

They do not show symptoms or get sick from the infection. However, you will catch it if you touch the pet because the Salmonella bacteria sits on this turtle’s outer skin and shell surfaces.

You may display symptoms like diarrhea, fever, or stomach pain and can be life-threatening if you leave it untreated.

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Summary

If you are an owner with kids, it will help if you taught your children how to handle the turtle before bringing it home. For example, they should only touch it if it lets them, and they should always remember to wash their hand with soap and clean water after that.

Red Eared Sliders are generally excellent pets and a worthy companion, though. They only hate being overhandled. So, don’t let the few negative sides discourage you from owning one.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.