Scientific name: Trachemys scripta elegans
Size: Between 3cm (young) to 40cm (adult)
Distribution: Found in many parts of the U.K.
Months seen: March to October. In winter they sleep under soil on land, or under mud at the bottom of ponds
Habitat: Freshwater ponds and lakes
Food: Small fish, vegetation and insects
Special features: Sometimes called 'red-eared sliders because of their habit of slipping underwater when frightened. Red-eared terrapins are native to the southern United States, but are now commonly found in many parts of the UK due to widespread release of imported pets. Following the cult film "Mutant Ninja Turtles", in the 1980's, many people bought these reptiles as pets. Once their owners realised how much care they needed, and that they can live for over 40 years, many were let loose in the countryside.
Red-eared Terrapins are almost totally aquatic, but they will leave the water to bask on hot sunny days. They're similar in appearance to the Red-bellied Sliders, but they lack the red ear stripes and if you turn them over the underside of the shell has a reddish colour. Also the European Pond Turtle is similar in shape and size but it has a more rounded head.
Red-eared terrapins can give a nasty bite which can transmit diseases so any wounds should be treated as soon as possible.
What's the difference between a turtle, a terrapin and a tortoise? Turtles are totally aquatic. Tortoises live totally on land, but terrapins enjoy a bit of both, so are considered semi-aquatic.