Friday, May 28, 2010

Pet Turtle Care: How to Tell the Gender of Red Eared Slider Turtles

Care of turtle pet

How to tell the gender of red eared slider turtles is important. Many pet-owners enjoy the antics of their Red-eared Slider for months or even years without concerning themselves as to whether their pet is a male or a female. Eventually, however, curiosity prevails and they want to know. Perhaps they're thinking of adding another turtle to the tank and think it would be best to have a male and a female.

In addition, many pet-owners daydream about their turtles mating, seeing their own pets lay eggs, and having the thrill of seeing those eggs hatch into baby turtles. If it happens naturally, that's one thing. But it's generally not recommended to try to match-make a male and female to produce young unless you're a professional turtle breeder.

But just the same, how do you tell the difference between genders?

As a general rule, female Red-eared Sliders are bigger than the males. A fully-grown female might have a shell measuring 11 inches in length, but a male will rarely ever grow more than 8 inches long. Adult females are also heavier, weighing more than 4 pounds.

But what if you don't have fully-mature pets? How do you tell? The fact is, until they are at least 4 inches long it's sometimes difficult to know. Well, one way to tell is by the length of the front claws: a male Red-eared Slider usually has longer front claws than the female-relative to his size, of course. However, if your turtle is too young or is late in going through a growth spurt, then this won't necessarily be a sure way to tell, at least not by itself.

Here's another thing to look for: male Red-eared Sliders also have longer, thinner tails than females, with a small vent (cloaca or hole) near the middle of the tail, halfway between the shell and the tip of the tail. Females have short tails and their vent is nearer the base of their shell, almost under the overlap of the shell.

One obvious way to tell is if your pet turtle lays eggs-and yes, female turtles will sometimes lay eggs without a male turtle being present.

Males also have in-curved bellies while females have out-curved or flat bellies. Don't turn your turtle upside-down to get a look, however, as this is detrimental to its health. Instead, lift it just high enough to peer at its underside.

Some of the above methods of determining the sex of your turtle are less definitive than others; however, if most or all of the signs point one direction, then it's pretty certain that you have correctly determined your turtle's gender. If you're still in doubt, however, and really want to know, ask your vet the next time you take your pet turtle in.

A reminder: wash your hands with water and soap after every time you handle your turtle. Turtles are often contaminated with Salmonella, and the bacteria that cause this disease can transmit a disease called Salmonellosis to their owners. Every year, in the United States alone, turtles (together with other reptiles) transmit 74,000 known cases of Salmonellosis to humans. So be careful!