Like many celebrities, the bald eagles of Deerfield Beach need protection from their fans.
Dozens of people have come through the park in the past week to take photos of the eagle parents and their eaglet, who peer down on their groupies from a nest high in a tree just outside the boundaries of Quiet Waters Park.
Concerned that all this attention could make it more difficult for the eagles to raise their offspring or lead them to abandon the nest, the park has taken several steps to protect them.
"They're supposed to come back to the nest every year, but if they're disturbed they won't come back," said Katherine Hendrickson, the park's naturalist. "We'd like to have them back here. They wouldn't have put their nest in that area if they had a better place to go."
A bald eagle protection zone has been created, with signs and barriers posted 330 feet away from the nest on one side and 450 feet on the other. Mountain bikers and joggers will still be permitted to use the trail that passes by the nest, since their activities hasn't seemed to disturb the birds, but others will be kept out.
What will happen to violators?
"You'll be escorted out of the park," Hendrickson. "We're taking this seriously."
The Florida Highway Patrol has been alerted about drivers illegally pulling over on Southwest 10th Street for a view of the nest, which was established about eight months ago.
It is the second known bald eagle nest in Broward County, with the first located south of Pines Boulevard in Pembroke Pines.
Other measures are in the works. Plastic-mesh construction fences are expected to be installed in the next few days. A park staffer will be posted at the entrance to the trail to the nest starting Wednesday. If the eagles appear agitated by the cyclists and joggers – something that hasn't appeared to be the case so far – the trail might be closed until the eagles leave, Hendrickson said.
Hellene Grundler, a volunteer with Florida Audubon's EagleWatch program, which monitors nests around the state, says she has seen the mother eagle become upset the presence of people around the nest. On three separate occasions, she said, the mother has approached the nest with a fish for her eaglet, become agitated and dropped the fish.
Now is a particularly critical period for the eaglet, she said, because the parents are trying to teach it to find food by enticing it from the nest to take the prey from them. She's said it's vital they be left alone to teach the eaglet how to make his way in the world.
"I love bald eagles," she said. "It's really important that we protect these beautiful birds so if they do come back, they nest again."