Turtles Take to the Tarmac at New York’s JFK Airport

Diamondback terrapin turtle (via USFWS/Flickr)

“Feet above sea level: 3.” That’s what the JetBlue seatback monitor read once as I taxied toward the gate at New York’s JFK Airport. So I wasn’t that surprised to see today’s news that the runways are easily accessed by sea creatures:

About 150 turtles crawled onto the tarmac at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday in search of beaches to lay their eggs, delaying dozens of flights, aviation authorities said.

The slow-motion stampede began about 6:45 a.m., and within three hours there were so many turtles on Runway 4L and nearby taxiways that controllers were forced to move departing flights to another runway.

We ceded to Mother Nature,” said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport.

Fear the turtle? Not quite – workers just moved them to the other side of the runways. It’s practice they’re used to:

The migration of diamondback terrapin turtles happens every year at Kennedy, which is built on the edge of Jamaica Bay and a federally protected park. In late June or early July the animals heave themselves out of the bay and head toward a beach to lay their eggs.

The peak of the migration usually lasts a few days, Marsico said.

Fortunately there were no major delays and it seemed like everyone kept a sense of humor about it:

American and JetBlue which has a hub at JFK, both said there were no major disruptions to their flights.

“We hope for faster animals next time,” JetBlue said in a statement.

NWF also blogged about the turtle invasion back in 2009.

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Published: June 29, 2011