SAVANNAH, Ga. — Biologists say rare loggerhead sea turtles nesting in Georgia and the Carolinas this summer laid eggs at a slower pace compared to their record-smashing 2016 season.

But experts say the May-through-August nesting season still yielded nest counts well above average for Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Giant loggerhead sea turtles are federally protected as a threatened species. Each summer in the Southeast, they crawl to beaches to lay eggs. Turtles set new nesting records by double-digit margins across the region. Florida is by far the busiest U.S. state for sea turtle nesting, but its count isn’t due until November.

Female loggerheads don’t nest every year, so counts tend to rise and fall. Georgia sea turtle biologist Mark Dodd said if 2017 is a down year, “next year should be really good.”

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