Do Red Ear Slider Turtles Bite People?

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

Red Eared Sliders bite, and their bites can be very painful. But that’s highly unlikely because these reptiles don’t bite “just because”. On the other hand, these reptiles bite if you push too hard.

Fortunately, you can prevent this behavior. Keep reading for more insight into preventing Red Eared Slider turtles from biting people.


Red Ear Shifter Temperament

red eared slide turtle_matos11_Pixabay

These pet tortoises are usually between 7 and 12 inches long as adults. They are colorful and semi-aquatic, which means they divide their time between land and water.

Red Eared Sliders make great pets. They are cute and are often described as having a gentle temperament.

These pets are friendly, more so than other turtles, and can recognize their owners and even eat from the palm of their hands. However, the Red Eared Slider is still a turtle, and generally these creatures do not like to be held, touched, or played with. For this reason, your pet can grow up to be aggressive and harmful to you, especially if you don’t know much about them.

You can see the Red Eared Slider’s aggression during certain events; either because of the food, you’ve put some of them together, or they feel threatened.

  • Also read: Painted Turtle vs Red-Eared Slider: What’s the Difference? (with Image)

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Humans?

red eared turtle_zoosnow, Pixabay

The Red Eared Slider is not naturally aggressive towards humans and can never turn you away from food. They are only wary of you and perceive you as a threat because of your size compared to their small frame.

So, if he feels threatened, his first instinct will be to defend himself by biting or biting you. Or, pets can hide in their shells until they feel no more danger.

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Tortoise bites are painful, but not dangerous or poisonous. The bite causes no real damage, although it can injure children with small fingers.

However, it is better to leave the turtle alone if it seems frightened and threatened by you. This mostly happens when you bring it home for the first time.

The best thing to do is leave him alone and give him time to relax. Plus, the whole relocation process is stressful, so it might warm you up if you calm down and settle into your home.

5 Reasons Why Red Eared Sliders Bite Can Be Biting

These tortoises are naturally non-aggressive, so something must be provoking them to bite. This can be anything like:

1. Putting Your Finger Closer to His Mouth

red eared slider in grass_Nobo Xious_Pixabay

Placing your finger right where the turtle bites is quite demanding. But turtles make mistakes too, and may mistake your fingers for food, especially if your hands are in the water.

Or, it could be unintentional, especially if you put the turtles in an outdoor pond. You may not be sure of the location of the pet, and may bite your hand while you are busy with garden maintenance.

2. Feeling Threatened

red ear slider_Raymond Halim_Pixabay

Relocation can be too much, ranging from busyness, length of travel, to settling in a new environment. In addition, stress levels increase once you bring him home, forcing him to become defensive and aggressive.

It will take time to adjust to the new environment and will naturally remain vigilant until that happens. You may want to let your pet settle down for a few weeks before you start making physical progress.

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3. Emphasize

red eared slider on rock_PublicDomainPictures_Pixabay

Could be just in a bad mood too, sometimes. Unfortunately, it occurs in every species on earth, including the tame sea turtle.

A stressed Red Eared Slider likes to be alone, so he may bite if you interfere in any way.

It is better to determine what is causing the stress and eliminate it. Check if he tends to hide too much, or take him to the vet if you can’t explain his mood.

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4. Poor feeding

red eared slider_Sergey_m_Pixabay

Offering your pet less food will make him crave the opportunity to eat. For this reason, it will bite you because it is hungry.

But if you give your pet enough food and he is still hungry, he may not eat anything you give him, thus starving him. Therefore, you can create a varied diet plan for your pet so that you can observe exactly what foods he likes.

You can rest assured that a basic, healthy, balanced diet can solve this problem.

5. Protect the Eggs

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

These pets can become aggressive during this time, and you may notice a lot of hissing and biting.

Do Red Eared Sliders Bite Each Other?

red eared slider turtle_Piqsels

Just like other wild animals, tortoises form a hierarchy within their groups, and the biggest usually get the best.

Aggression can become commonplace if you have more than one turtle in the same tank. These pets will fight in the tank as everyone will try to protect their territory and basking area.

Red Eared Sliders also bite each other while eating. So if you give less food, the biggest turtles will always get the first share, which might get them into a fight if there isn’t enough food to share.

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

Can You Get Infected from Its Bites?

red eared slider turtle on rock

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

They are asymptomatic or sick from infection. However, you will be infected if you touch the pet because the Salmonella bacteria are on the surface of the skin and outer shell of these turtles.

You may exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, or abdominal pain and it can be life-threatening if you leave it untreated.



If you are an owner with children, it helps if you teach your children how to handle turtles before bringing them home. For example, they should only touch it when possible, and they should always remember to wash their hands with soap and clean water afterward.

Red Eared Sliders are generally excellent pets and worthy companions. They just hate to be belittled. So, don’t let some negativity stop you from having it.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels