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Non-native species

Plants and animals that humans have introduced into the wild are considered non-native, or exotic, species. We track sightings of non-native reptiles and amphibians as well as native species that you find in the wild in Ontario.

Red-eared slider (non-native species) © Scott Gillingwater

Here are a few common non-native reptiles in Ontario:

Red-eared slider

Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

The red-eared slider is the most common non-native species of turtle found in Ontario. This species was introduced through the pet trade and is now found in every continent except Antarctica. It has a brown to black upper shell, yellow stripes on its limbs and head, and a distinctive red or orange band around the eyes. Native to the U.S., the red-eared slider is commonly sold in pet stores, but many people who buy one do not realize that it can reach a maximum size of 25 to 33 centimetres and live for more than 30 years in captivity. Learn more about the red-eared slider and why not to release them.

False map turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica)

The false map turtle can be identified by the row of low spines on its upper shell and the yellow patch around its eyes. Its native range is in the United States. Like the red-eared slider, the false map turtle is sold as a pet and often released into the wild when it’s no longer wanted.

Red cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus)

In the wild, the red cornsnake is grey with black-bordered orange or red spots on its back. It also has a black-and-white pattern on its belly that resembles the pattern of kernels on a corn cob. Red cornsnakes that are sold in pet stores come in a variety of colours. This species, native to the southeastern United States, is one of the most popular snake species sold as pets and can grow up to 180 centimetres long. It is closely related to the native gray ratsnake and eastern foxsnake.

Be a responsible pet owner and do not release non-native species into the wild. Most released pet reptiles and amphibians will die during Ontario’s cold winters and they harm ecosystems in the following ways:

  • Disease: Non-native species can bring in new strains of bacteria or viruses that can affect native populations of animals, plants and humans.
  • Competition: Non-native species may out-compete native ones for resources.
  • Predation: Non-native species may consume native species in large numbers.
  • Hybridization: Closely related native and non-native species may produce hybrids that displace native species or compromise their genetic diversity.
  • Economics: Non-native species can affect profits from agricultural production, timber extraction, tourism and recreational activities.

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