They're building a wall along 4,000 feet of runway that juts out into the bay where the turtles live, the New York Post said Saturday. As part of their annual ritual the diamondback terrapins climb on top of the runway in an effort to reach nesting ground on the other side.
Officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said 1,300 turtles were removed by employees, a danger to the animals that also delays flights and forces pilots to land on alternate runways rather than risk an accident.
"We're trying to find a balance between nature and aviation," said Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico. "We don't want to see the turtles get hurt, and this should keep the airport running smoothly."
Environmental experts said the 8-inch wall will help keep the turtles off the runway but not necessarily out of harm's way. Russell Burke, a biology professor at Hofstra University, said the gentle reptiles are most susceptible to predators like raccoons and the wall might make them more of a target.
"If you build a barrier like that, they might just walk along the barrier and nest there," Burke said. "Between 90 and 100 percent of terrapin turtles are killed by predators, so they need to be given a fighting chance."