what do red eared sliders do in the winter



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Hibernation is a common phenomenon among many reptiles, and red eared sliders are no exception. During the winter months, these turtles typically seek out a safe and insulated spot to hibernate in. Their metabolic rate slows down dramatically, allowing them to live off of stored energy reserves. It’s important for turtle owners to understand the hibernation process for their red eared sliders, as improper care during this time can lead to serious health issues. In this blog post, we will explore the hibernation habits of red eared sliders, as well as provide tips for proper care and maintenance during the winter months. By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of what these fascinating creatures do to survive the winter.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hibernation: Red eared sliders hibernate in the winter, typically burrowing into the mud at the bottom of ponds or lakes to conserve energy and survive the colder temperatures.
  • Reduced Activity: During the winter months, red eared sliders exhibit reduced activity levels, spending much of their time resting and conserving energy.
  • Decreased Feeding: In the winter, red eared sliders eat less or may stop eating altogether as their metabolism slows down due to the cooler temperatures.

Winter Behavior and Physiology

Even as cold-blooded creatures, red eared sliders are not immune to the changes brought by winter. During this season, their behavior and physiology adapt to the colder temperatures to ensure their survival.

Brumation Explained

In the wild, red eared sliders experience a period of dormancy known as brumation during the winter months. This is a form of hibernation specific to reptiles, during which their metabolic rate slows down and they become less active. They seek out a safe and sheltered spot, such as under mud, logs, or rocks, where they can remain dormant until the spring arrives.

Physical Changes During Brumation

As red eared sliders prepare for brumation, they undergo various physical changes to adapt to the colder temperatures. Their heart rate and breathing slow down, and they require very little food during this time. This period of dormancy allows them to conserve energy and survive the winter months when food sources are scarce. However, it’s important to note that while in brumation, red eared sliders are more vulnerable to predators, so finding a safe and secure hibernation spot is crucial for their survival.

Habitat and Hibernation

Assuming temperatures drop significantly and food becomes scarce, red eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) enter a state of dormancy known as hibernation. During this time, they retreat to the bottom of their natural water habitats or seek out a warmer and more secure environment to wait out the winter months.

Natural Winter Habitat

In their natural habitat, red eared sliders will bury themselves in mud at the bottom of ponds, streams, or lakes. They lower their metabolism and remain inactive for the duration of the winter. These cold-blooded reptiles also seek areas with minimal water movement so they can conserve energy and oxygen. It’s essential for them to find a safe, sheltered spot to survive, as prolonged exposure to extreme cold can be lethal to these creatures.

Artificial Environments in Captivity

In captivity, red eared sliders need a suitable environment to hibernate, usually in a cooler area away from direct sunlight and with reduced water activity. They may require a well-insulated, temperature-controlled habitat to mimic their natural hibernation conditions. It’s crucial for caretakers to monitor and regulate the temperature and environmental factors to ensure the well-being and safety of their pets during the winter hibernation period.

Health and Care During Winter

Unlike humans, red eared sliders do not hibernate during the winter. Instead, they go through a period of reduced activity known as brumation. During this time, their metabolism slows down, and they may spend most of their time resting at the bottom of their habitat. It is important for turtle owners to be aware of the specific health and care needs of their red eared sliders during the winter months.

Monitoring Brumating Turtles

During the winter, red eared sliders may spend the majority of their time submerged in the water or resting on the basking area. It is important for turtle owners to regularly check on their turtles to ensure that they are healthy and safe. Monitoring their activity levels, as well as their food and water intake, can provide valuable insight into their overall well-being during the winter months. Additionally, red eared sliders may occasionally emerge from their state of brumation to bask under a heat lamp, so it is important to observe these periods of activity and adjust the habitat’s temperature as needed.

Common Health Concerns in Cold Weather

During the winter months, red eared sliders may be more susceptible to certain health concerns, including respiratory infections and shell rot due to the cooler temperatures. It is essential for turtle owners to maintain a suitable basking area with a heat lamp to ensure that their turtles can warm themselves sufficiently. Additionally, maintaining good water quality and providing a balanced diet is crucial to supporting a red eared slider’s immune system during the winter. Watching for signs of illness, such as decreased appetite or abnormal behavior, is essential in identifying and addressing any health concerns that may arise during the winter months.


Considering all points, it is clear that red-eared sliders take a different approach during the winter months. They typically enter a state of brumation, slowing down their metabolic functions and reducing their activity levels. This allows them to conserve energy and survive colder temperatures. During this time, they become less active and will often spend the majority of their time at the bottom of their pond or in a burrow beneath the ground. It is important for turtle owners to understand and accommodate for this natural behavior by adjusting their care and environment accordingly. By following these guidelines, red-eared sliders can safely and comfortably navigate the winter season.

Red Eared Sliders Winter FAQ

Q: What do red eared sliders do in the winter?

A: Red eared sliders are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. In the winter, they will brumate, which is a hibernation-like state for reptiles. During brumation, they will become less active, eat less, and may even bury themselves in mud at the bottom of ponds to conserve energy.

Q: Do red eared sliders need special care in the winter?

A: While red eared sliders are capable of surviving the winter in their natural environment, pet red eared sliders may require special care during the winter months. It is essential to provide a suitable indoor habitat with access to a basking area and a heat source to ensure they can regulate their body temperature properly. Also, it’s important to monitor their food intake and adjust it according to their decreased activity level during brumation.

Q: Can red eared sliders stay outside in the winter?

A: In their native range, red eared sliders have adapted to survive in cold temperatures, and they may hibernate in bodies of water such as ponds or lakes. However, in areas with harsh winters, it is not recommended to leave pet red eared sliders outside during the winter. They are better off in a controlled indoor environment where their temperature and food intake can be monitored to ensure their well-being throughout the colder months.

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