Kennedy Airport runway turtles - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Kennedy Airport runway turtles

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Tens of thousands of the diamondback terrapins live in Jamaica Bay. This is the time of year some of them wind up on the runway at Kennedy Airport.

In June 2011, 100 turtles wound up on Runway 4L, causing major delays. But the diamondback terrapins continue to show up at the airport every year around this time when they make their way out of Jamaica Bay in search of place to lay their eggs. The sandy area of the outskirts of the runway right next to the water has proven a popular spot.

The Port Authority recently installed miles of black plastic tubing along the base of the airports fence, but a couple of hundred turtles have still managed to get over so far this year, like the ones removed by port authority biologists last month.

Dr. Russell Burke, chair of the Biology Department at Hofstra University, has been studying the terrapins since 1998. He and his team of volunteers spend their summer days in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge tagging the turtles, releasing them back into the water, and protecting their eggs from hungry raccoons to help maintain the population.

Burke said the Port Authority's efforts have helped keep more terrapins away from the planes and in safer areas where his team can monitor them. The study is far from over because as Burke pointed out nothing happens quickly when you're dealing with turtles.

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