Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Bite

If you own a red-eared slider or are thinking about getting one, you may be wondering if they can bite. You also might want to know how much pain their bites can cause. I will cover all of this in the article below.

Do Red-Eared Sliders bite?

While it isn’t super common, red-eared sliders can certainly bite you. The two main reasons they’ll bite you is if they think your finger is food, or if they feel threatened.

Reason 1: Mistaking you for food

The main reason a red-eared slider will bite you is because they mistake your finger for good. It’s important to realize that red-eared sliders are opportunistic feeders. This means they will eat just about anything they can get their mouth on.

If your finger is dangling anywhere near their mouth, there is a good chance they will mistake it for food. For this reason, it’s important to always be aware of your turtle’s location if you are putting your hand inside their tank.

Below is a photo of my red-eared slider trying to bite my finger through the glass.

red eared slider biting a finger

Reason 2: They feel threatened

picking up a red eared slider

The other reason your red-eared slider might bite you is because they feel threatened. This could be a result of your reaching into their tank, or picking them up. It’s important to remember that humans are way bigger than turtles, and approaching them can definitely set off some of their defense mechanisms. Think about how you would feel if a giant 30 times your size reached down to pick you up.

If your turtle feels threatened, they will likely display a couple other behaviors. For example, they probably start hissing at you, or start frantically moving around their arms and legs. If you notice your turtle ding this, you should give them some space to calm down.

It’s also important to note that your turtle might become more aggressive due to poor tank conditions. Therefore, you should always make sure that your turtle’s tank doesn’t get too dirty.

Does a red eared slider bite hurt?

No, most of the time a red-eared slider bite will not hurt. It basically just feels like a quick, firm pinch.

I’ve only been bitten by a red-eared slider once. Here is my story.

I was fixing the position of my turtle tank filter, and I was only using one hand. My other hand was just resting near the top of the water level. While I was concentrated on the filter, my turtle came out of nowhere and took a bite at my finger. It definitely shocked me as I didn’t think my turtle was near my hand, but the pain was very minimal.

The bite only lasted for about half a second before my turtle let go. Now my turtle is only 5 years old, so an older red-eared slider might have a little more jaw power.

Can a red-eared slider bite your finger off?

No, a red-eared slider cannot bit your finger off. They simply don’t have a big enough mouth or jaw strength to bite off a finger.

Red-eared sliders also typically don’t bite on to food/objects for extended periods of time. They typically just extend their necks out quickly to bite on to something, but if they can’t consume it they usually let go pretty quickly.

However, there are other types of turtles that do have the ability to bite off your finger. For example, there have been cases of snapping turtles biting off fingers. There are also some large tortoise species that have the mouth strength to bite off a finger, but this is not common at all.

What to do if a red-eared slider bites you?

If a red-eared slider bites you, you should just go immediately and wash your hands. This will help prevent the spread of any diseases your turtle might have.

There is a very small chance that a red-eared slider will be able to draw blood from biting you. They don’t have teeth, so there mouth is not very sharp. They do however have a strong beak at the roof of their mouth, so there is a small should the beak could pierce your skin.

If this happens, you should immediately wash the bite area and then apply Neosporin and a Band-Aid. You should monitor the bite location for a couple days to make sure there is no additional swelling or inflammation.

How to prevent your red-eared slider from biting you

While red-eared slider bites are not very dangerous, I still recommend you take precautions to avoid it. Luckily, it’s not very hard to avoid a bite.

You should just make sure that you don’t dangle your hand or fingers in their tank, especially when you are feeding them. Red-eared sliders can extend their necks pretty long and very quickly, so your fingers might still be at risk even if your turtle is not near you.

You should also avoid handling your turtle if they don’t like it. Some red-eared sliders prefer to be left alone in their tank, so don’t try to force them out.

If you come across a wild red-eared slider, you should never pick them up. Not only can they possibly bite you, but even just picking them up could expose you to dangerous viruses.

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