Of all the reptiles in the American southeast, I’m perhaps loosest and least confident when it comes to identifying cooters (Pseudemys sp.) and sliders (Trachemys sp.). While some individuals of each species can be ridiculously easy to identify, others seem to nebulously waffle between distinguishing physical characteristics. Cooters and sliders have much in common in habitat, generic appearance, and generalized behavior. All that being said, I’m pretty darn sure this is a young Florida red-bellied cotter, Pseudemys nelsoni, basking in a marshy stretch of pond in Collier county, Florida. In the in-land reaches of south Florida, Pseudemys nelsoni seems to have a more solid grip on native distribution — whereas the Trachemys scripta sliders are a bit more limited and introduced to the coastlines via dense human populations and urban development. You’re more likely to find a slider in a South Florida botanical garden than in the thick of Big Cypress. At least, that’s been my general experience!