Turtles crossing runway cause New York flight delays

NEW YORK Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:53am BST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport were delayed shortly on Wednesday when about 150 diamondback terrapin turtles were spotted crossing a runway, authorities said.

The reptiles were trying to get to the other side of the runway to lay eggs on the sandy shores of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which borders the airport.

Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees operation of the region's airports, pilots from Jet Blue and other airlines halted their flights to let the expectant reptiles pass.

"Flight delays attributed to turtles were minor, about 15 minutes or so," he said.

Port Authority staff rushed out to the tarmac where, between takeoffs and landings, they scooped up the turtles and helped them on their way.

Naturalists said the 185-acre Jamaica Bay may be the diamondback's most popular breeding ground in North America.

"It happens every year at about this time. It's the great migration, and this is the peak of the season," he said.

Flights were rerouted to another runway, as waves of turtles pressed on with their march to the bay.

"At one point, we decided to heed Mother Nature and use other runways. This is not impacting flights," Marsico said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Patricia Reaney)

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