Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite

Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite? If Yes, Are The Bites Poisonous? 

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles belonging to the Emydidae family. Unlike 160 million years ago, when they had teeth, modern turtles only possess ridges on their lower and upper jaws. Other than eating, turtles use these ridges for fighting and biting in self-defense.

So, can the red-eared slider turtle bite? Yes, they can. These turtles possess strong jaws, and their bite can be hurtful. Usually, turtles bite if they feel threatened or stressed. Bites to sensitive parts can be severe and cause bleeding. There is a risk of wound infection and salmonella if not tended well.

Red Eared Sliders can bite and harm people. Following are the effects and remedies of these turtles’ bites. 

Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite? 


Red-eared slider turtles can bite both people and other pets. Thankfully, their bite is not as strong as that of a snapping turtle that can amputate a finger. However, their jaws are strong enough to harm sensitive parts like the nose, lips, or tongue. It is reasonable to keep away from turtle pets if they exhibit distress or feel threatened.

The most common reason for a red-eared slider turtle to bite a person is in self-defense. A red-eared turtle brought up in adequate space can grow up to 12 inches in length. This is still short compared to humans, and they often feel threatened, especially if they are new in that environment. Approach turtles from behind before lifting them, and hold them comfortably using both hands to avoid causing unnecessary tension.

Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite

A stressed turtle will more likely bite a person trying to pet it. As with all living creatures, when stressed, they prefer to be alone, and if you bother them, they might bite you. Hiding in a shell for a long time can be a sign of stress, and you should avoid petting them during this period. If you cannot figure out why your turtle is stressed, take it to the veterinarian.

Bite wounds on sensitive parts like the nose and lips can result in serious bleeding if not tended to immediately. Any bleeding bite wound caused by turtles is alarming and should be treated by a medical professional. The treatment should be fast to avoid over bleeding and reduce the spreading of salmonella infection.

The experts even warn about kissing pet turtles because of the salmonella bacteria they carry on their bodies and spread through the place where they live and roam. The virus does not affect turtles but affects humans, especially children and the elderly. Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, high body temperatures, nausea, and vomiting. For most people, the immune system will fight the germs within a week, though it is always better to first seek medical advice. 

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Reasons why Red Eared Slider Turtles Might Bite You

If you put your finger too close to the turtle’s mouth, it will be tempted to bite you. When petting it, it is best to do it from the back and avoid being close to its mouth. A hungry turtle is also more likely to bite anything close to its mouth, so avoid them if they are hungry.

Reasons why Red Eared Slider Turtles Might Bite You

If a male turtle is living with other males, they are likely to fight and bite more often. These can be fights for territorial control or just superiority against each other. Mating turtles also fight their fellow turtles for the right to mate. They may also bite any female turtle that denies them. This is kind of a mating ritual in the turtle population. 

Can Red-Eared Slider Turtle Bite Off Your Finger or Toe?

Red-eared turtles are smaller, but they can bite off a finger or toe. Children have fingers and toes that are much easier for the turtles to bite off, so do not let them pet both baby and adult turtles.

What Happens When Red-Eared Slider Turtle Bites?

After biting, if the turtle does not let go of your finger or toe, pick the turtle carefully with your free arm. Carefully put it back in the water and remain still till the turtle lets go. Attempting to pull your finger or toe can cause more damage since the red-eared turtle’s mouth has ridges that might cut you.

What Happens When Red-Eared Slider Turtle Bites

What To Do If Red Eared Slider Turtle Bite You?

The damage caused by the bite should determine what you should do next. If it is not a startling or painful bite and your skin does not break, use soap and water to clean the area and wash off the germs. If there is blood on the wound, immediately cover the affected area to stop bleeding and seek medical attention.

Red Eared Slider Turtle

Tips To Avoid Getting Bitten by a Red-Eared Slider Turtle

To avoid being bitten by a red-eared turtle, always handle them with care to avoid posing a threat. When moving the turtle, hold it with both hands, one on each side of the shell. You should then carefully put it down in the desired location. Avoid petting the turtles’ face or mouth area if they are hungry or looking stressed. 

Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Steps In Treating Less Serious Red-Eared Slider Turtle Bite

Handling serious bites is highly discouraged for the reasons we’ve mentioned above. However, if it’s a minor wound, you can follow the following steps:

  • If you are treating a wound on another person, start by washing your hands with an antibacterial soap. 
  • Stop bleeding by applying pressure to the wound.
  • Rinse the bite using clean water for around 10 minutes and then dry using a clean cloth.
  • Apply a medically-approved antibiotic cream.
  • Cover the wound with a bandage.
  • Remember to dress the wound regularly and apply antibiotic cream.
See also  Turtle Shell Rot: How To Treat Your Pet Turtle At Home?

Please note that pregnant women should never treat wounds from home. Salmonella infection could trigger miscarriage and you don’t want to risk it. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Like To Be Petted?

Red-eared sliders don’t like to be picked or petted. However, after owning them for some time and gaining their trust, you can try to hold and pet them. Be sure they’re in a good mood and avoid touching their shell or mouth.

2. Do Snapping Turtle Bite?

Snapping turtles are most well-known for their strong bites. They use their strong jaws to subdue and kill their prey while hunting. When its mouth is open, avoid petting areas near its jaws. Use a shovel or other equipment while moving the turtles to avoid contact.

3. Do Box Turtle Bite?

Box turtles rarely bite or hiss, qualities that make them one of the most recommended turtle species for a pet. However, when in distress, they will bite you in defense and sometimes harm you. Like all pets, they should be carefully handled to avoid provoking them.


Red-eared sliders make good pets for owners who like home aquariums. They are easy to maintain and can stay with other pets like fish. However, like many animals, they will defend themselves and bite if threatened.

Knowing what to do after a turtle bite accident can be lifesaving. Though the bites aren’t poisonous, it is best to be aware of the effects and know how to remedy them. This knowledge enables you to own these pets and interact with them confidently.

If you are wondering if mud turtles and alligator snapping turtles bite? check out our articles on it.

Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite

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