Turtle patrols at JFK International Airport have become as regular as the nesting season for the Diamondback Terrapin turtles that live in Jamaica Bay, and sometimes try to turn airport grounds into their new home.

"What the females are looking for is sandy soil that's above the high tide line so they can lay eggs and they won't get flooded by the tides," said Laura Francoeur, chief wildlife biologist for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

What You Need To Know

  • Terrapin turtles seek JFK Airport grounds as nesting place to shield eggs from tides

  • Turtles disrupt airport operations and flight schedules and even pose danger to planes
  • Port Authority officials say tubing has been an effective barrier at keeping turtles out

That leads to turtles invading JFK's runways each June and July because the airport is at a higher elevation than the surrounding marsh islands, which can be a huge disruption.

"Aircraft in particular, if they see the turtle they might want to stop so they don't run the turtle over and that could slow down your flight to Disney World," said Francoeur.

She says there's even a small chance of damage to a plane that strikes a turtle. Tubing has been installed on the grounds that helps to keep turtles out and flights running smoothly.

"It's big, black, eight-inch basically irrigation tubing, but that's high enough so that the Terrapins can't climb over it," said Francoeur.

Workers try to track down and remove the turtles that do make it in, and Francoeur says their efforts seem to be working.

"We must be doing a pretty good job because our Terrapin numbers are down 45 percent from last year," Francoeur said.