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Amorous turtles disrupt flight schedules at JFK

July 9, 2009 |  5:08 pm

Turtle

In the months since US Airways Flight 1549 went down in the Hudson River, we've all heard about "bird strikes" -- when geese, gulls or pigeons interfere with aircraft.  (The issue of bird strikes has even prompted a few airports to hire herding dogs to keep birds and other animals off their runways.) 

Birds we've heard about.  But turtles?  It sounds too strange to be true, but 78 of the shelled creatures brought New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport to a screeching halt Wednesday.  The turtles -- identified as diamondback terrapins -- had apparently emerged from nearby Jamaica Bay looking for breeding grounds, the New York Daily News reported.

"Presumably, all these turtles were feeling amorous," Port Authority spokesman John Kelly told the New York Times' City Room blog, before offering up a string of turtle-related puns.

A pilot reported seeing the turtles on one of JFK's runways at about 8:30 a.m., and Port Authority workers struggled to remove the animals quickly.  The turtles -- each about 8 to 10 inches long and weighing 2 to 3 pounds -- had been scooped up and deposited back in the bay in about 35 minutes.  But the damage had been done, and flights were delayed up to an hour and a half.

Despite the inconvenience, "[everybody] had a good attitude considering it was turtles going off to hatch more turtles," Kelly told the Daily News.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A turtle (not one of those found at JFK) climbs out of a swimming pool.  Credit: Abdelhak Senna / AFP/Getty Images

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