Turtles on Runway Cause JFK Airport Delays

By Amy Zimmer on June 29, 2011 12:11pm | Updated on June 29, 2011 12:55pm

An image of a Diamondback terrapin from Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
An image of a Diamondback terrapin from Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
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Flickr/hjhipster

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Move over Canada geese, turtles are the latest delay-causing nuisance at JFK Airport.

A runway at Kennedy Airport was shuttered Wednesday at around 9:30 a.m. because of roughly 150 diamondback terrapins crawling across its path en route from one part of Jamaica Bay to a sandy breeding ground for mating season, Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said.

"We decided to honor mother nature and move departures to another runway," Marsico said.

The turtles, who begain their migration at around 6:45 a.m., were still being scooped up by animal specialists and Port Authority workers on the tarmac as of 12:45 p.m., Marsico said, but were only causing 15-minute delays on departures.

Workers were moving the turtles in a pick-up truck to the area where the amphibians lay their eggs around Jamaica Bay.

The annual turtle mating ritual has caused delays at JFK before. Runway 4L was also closed in 2009 because of the terrapins.

"Perhaps their a little busier than normal," Marsico said of Wednesday's turtle crossing. Their breeding season lasts from May through July

"JFK is experiencing delays as the airport clears turtles off the runway," JetBlue tweeted using the hashtag "#cantmakethisup."

"Running over turtles is not healthy for them nor is it good for our tires," JetBlue tweeted.

Marisco added: "The turtles aren't going to do much damage to a plane, but a plane will not be good for a turtle."

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