More than 150 turtles crossed over an active runway [at JFK Airport] and disrupted air traffic on Wednesday so that they could continue their mating season. The diamondback terrapins were trying to get to an ideal location to lay their eggs. That’s a sandy area that happens to be across Runway 4, according to Carol Bannerman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The turtles were primarily female, and the fertilization of their eggs occurs in the water, she said. JFK is surrounded by a bay and wetland areas. The first turtle was spotted at 6:45 a.m. and a short time afterward, Port Authority staff was dispatched and the U.S. Department of Agriculture assisted, according to Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico. “This happens every year,” Marsico said. “I guess some years there is more turtle activity.”
After a turtle was spotted, it was picked up and moved to a better destination to continue nesting, Bannerman said. People began tweeting about the turtles soon after the news broke. Within 8 hours, @JFKTurtles had almost 3,000 followers on Twitter, even from airline accounts like Jet Blue who had this to say: “Oh @JFKTurtles, we could never stay mad at you … Glad you made it to your honey moon spot safe.”