The most common seen turtle is the pond slider. The top shell is usually dark olive-green to black and striped or blotched with light yellow. The undersides of their shells are typically bright yellow with numerous black dots or smudges. Their heads and legs are striped with black and yellow. There is usually a prominent red streak on the side of the head behind the eye.
Mature adults have an average shell length of 5-12 inches and weigh 5-18 lbs. Their life span in the wild is about 20 years Sliders were most commonly sold in pet stores in the 60’s and 70’s. Millions of these turtles were sold and many thousands were released by their novelty or their bowls. Therefore, the slider is probably the most widely introduced turtle in the world.
Sliders can be found in most any body of water but they prefer the slow moving waters of creeks, lakes and ponds. They prefer soft bottoms with vegetation and emergent logs for basking. Since they are cold-blooded basking in the sun raises their body temperature which speeds up their digestion. Basking also helps rid them of pests and algae by drying the skin.
Sliders usually overwinter buried in the mud on the bottom of ponds or lakes. They also sometimes make use of beaver and muskrat lodges. They begin hibernation when the temperature drops below 50 degrees F and re-emerge in the spring when temperature reaches 70 degrees F.
Breeding occurs from March-June. Mating occurs in the water, nests are constructed on land between June and July. Sliders can lay 1-3 clutches of 4-23 oval, leathery eggs in nests dug by females. Nests typically are 6-8 inches deep and covered with soil after eggs are laid, There is no parental care. Young turtles hatch in 8-10 weeks, though occasionally they will spend the winter underground in the nest. Hatchlings are about 1 inch in diameter and are striped with bright green and yellow markings.
Many species of plants and animals may be eaten by Sliders. The young turtles are primarily carnivorous, eating insects and insect larvae, but start adding vegetation to their diet as they mature. Their diet includes algae, duckweed, pondweed, water lily, and insects like mosquito larvae, dragonflies, mayflies and aquatic beetles etc.
Turtles are often perceived as pests in many ponds but are seldom a biological problem. Studies of Slider diet indicate that 80% of the adult diet is vegetation and only 3% is fish. Sliders do not capture many live fish and therefore should not be considered a problem. Therefore, turtles are actually filling a positive role by serving as the sanitation crew of ponds. Their greatest service is as scavengers, eating vegetation and remains from dying animals. Some people even enjoy watching turtles in their comical clambering to be top man on the log.
How do you reduce turtle population? No repellents or toxicants work on turtles so trapping is the only alternative. There is still the problem of what to do with turtles you remove. Turtles are also quite capable of traveling overland back to their favorite pond. Therefore, before taking steps to remove troublesome turtles from your pond, consider what you might do to minimize the problem. Don’t leave your caught fish on stringers. If you feed fish, decrease the amount of food per feeding.
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