JFK International Airport Runways Home to Nesting Terrapins

Slow-moving creatures have invaded a major airport in the United States, a move that has caused flight delays while crews tried to shoo the occasional terrapin away from runways and tarmacs. Researchers are trying to figure out how to keep these nesting turtles away from huge planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, one of the world’s busiest airports.Turtle Power

Around 400 diamondback terrapins arrived on the airport’s land in 2016, following the nesting of female turtles along the sandy areas near the borders of the transportation hub. The sand serves as a way for the turtles to bury their eggs until they hatch. Some of the turtles managed to get on the runways and taxiways, which caused problems for the planes.

Turtle Roundup


Officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said anything can damage a plane, even something as small as a turtle. Flights may have delays of several minutes while crews round up the slow-moving reptiles to get them out of harm’s way. The agency’s chief wildlife biologist, Laura Francoeur, has the tough task of keeping the turtles away during their warm, active months that peak in mid-July. Plastic barriers keep most of the thousands of turtles closer to Jamaica Bay and the Gateway National Recreation Area, but a total of 163 got through these barriers in 2015. Scientists are going to try a high-tech method to figure out why turtles keep moving away from their nests.

Turtle Habits


The turtle problem started in the summer of 2009, and then the terrapins came back in 2011. Plastic tubing came into play in 2014. Now that it’s 2016, biologists plan to insert microchips in some turtles so they can monitor their movements. Scientists hope that if they understand where the turtles go, they can help them stay off the hazardous runways in the future.Until researchers find a permanent solution, staff at the airport continue to rescue these stubborn animals. See how the U.S. Coast Guard rescued hundreds of sea turtles in Florida.

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