Recognized Subspecies in VA: Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta), Cumberland Slider (Trachemys scripta troostii), and *Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)*
Size: 5 - 9 inches
Status: Yellow-bellied Slider - Tier IV | Cumberland Slider - Tier III | Red-eared Slider - Introduced
The Pond Slider (or Common Slider) is native in its Yellow-bellied subspecies to the coastal plain of Virginia, and in its Cumberland Subspecies on the Cumberland Plateau. On the coast, it is a common denizen to marshes, swamps, and back waters where it can often be found basking. On the Cumberland Plateau, it is a rare inhabitant of the Holston River drainage, where hardly anything is known about it. Both of these subspecies are threatened by the introduced Red-eared Slider that is native to the Midwest, south to the western Gulf of Mexico. This subspecies was introduced to Virginia many years ago, but it seems to have been introduced to at least 48 countries, by my count, world wide including Brazil, the U.K., South Africa, the Canarias Islands, Japan, and New Zealand. Here it out competes native turtles, and even pushed the native Pond Slider subspecies out due to interbreeding. I have spoken to a few herpetologist that fear the Red-eared Slider could wipe out the already rare Cumberland Slider in the near future. That said, Virginia considers this subspecies "naturalized". Either way, this subspecies is here to stay.
One can find Pond Sliders basking and breaching along almost any slow moving water sources in the state. Yellow-bellied Sliders are only found naively in the Coastal Plain, but a few have been introduced inland around cities. Red-eared Sliders are typically found in areas of high human traffic. I see several in places like Virginia Beach, Richmond, Martinsville, Blacksburg, Buena Vista, and NOVA. They tend not to be found in many rural areas though. So, while one could be found in a farm pond, it would be highly unlikely.
All subspecies have highly domed shells as adults (shaped like a hamburger bun), with a lot of texture, and jagged saw-toothing along the back marginals. Juveniles lack this saw-toothing. Sliders have large, square heads compared to Cooters and Painted Turtles as well. The adult Yellow-bellied Slider is mostly black, with a yellow belly, and a swirl of yellow behind the eye that fades with age. Juveniles are more green with some patterning on the shell. Red-eared Sliders are usually greener when they are younger, but they get pretty dark with age. They have a red stripe behind they eye, which fades with age as well, before the whole turtle starts to lighten towards an ivory color with black accents. Cumberland Sliders are similar to the Red-eared, but their stripe starts as yellow, before turning a rusty brown with age.
Similar Species: The River Cooter and Coastal Plain Cooter are often confused for this species, but the cooters lacks the distinct facial markings of these three subspecies, as well as they have flatter shells and smaller heads.
Maps and External Sources
***This map displays areas of known/presumed breeding sights in the state or areas with multiple individuals reported. There are dozens of "one-off" records of released animals across the state that this map does not depict. Sites that are purple (not pinstriped) have multiple introduced subspecies, and no native Sliders.***
Herping Virginia encourages all naturalists to practice ethical, safe, and sustainable herping. The use of proper herping methods and techniques is beneficial to both wildlife and herpers. Visit the links below for more information.