JFK Airport to build 4,000-foot turtle barrier

An adult Diamondback terrapin is too close to the runway at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, New York on May 23, 2012. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services’ biologist Jenny Mastantuono and her staff work at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport solving wildlife conflicts with people and planes. The Diamondback terrapin is a type of turtle that prefers to live in brackish marshes and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge around JFK is a favored habitat for these reptiles. In the late spring, they crawl on to land to lay their eggs in the sandy soils near the airport, often crossing runways to do so. Terrapins on the runway pose a threat to aircraft using the runways. If a plane hits the terrapins, their carcass can attract scavengers like gulls, which may pose an even greater danger to airline safety. USDA photo by Jenny Mastanuono
An adult Diamondback terrapin is too close to the runway at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, New York on May 23, 2012. USDA photo by Jenny Mastanuono

John F. Kennedy International Airport is under invasion—a very slow invasion.

For years, turtles have been crawling out of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and crossing JFK runways en masse, intent on laying their eggs in the sandy soil near the airport. After scooping 1,300 of the critters off the tarmac during last year’s mating season, officials are building a 4,000-foot long, 8-inch wide barrier in hopes of keeping them out of harm’s way.

It’s not just the turtles—Diamondback Terrapins, to be precise—that stand to get hurt. When turtles are struck by an aircraft, the carcasses can attract seagulls and other scavengers, increasing the risk of bird strikes.

“We’re trying to find a balance between nature and aviation,” Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico told the New York Post. “We don’t want to see the turtles get hurt, and this should keep the airport running smoothly.”

 Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports


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