GUELPH – A 33-year-old balsam fir from Newfoundland was chopped down at the University of Guelph without anyone’s permission.

Police are now investigating the incident, which university officials believe may have been done to use the tree for Christmas.

“We’re speculating it may have been used for holiday purposes, but we don’t know that for sure,” explains arboretum horticulture manager Sean Fox.

He says in the 19 years he’s worked at the university, only a handful of trees and plants have been intentionally damaged.

The fir, which stood between 15 and 20 feet, was “hacked apart” and the upper portion of the tree appears to have been hauled away.

The arboretum and its trees are regulated under the City of Guelph’s tree bylaw.

Under the bylaw, anyone who damages a tree without a permit could be fined at least $500. Fox says this was an act of vandalism involving a third party and reported it to campus police.

“They came out to investigate, they do their patrols here and obviously any time there’s mischief or vandalism they like to build cases for it just to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he says.

The University of Guelph says that, if the person responsible is a student, then that person would most likely be charged with mischief or damage to property according to the non-academic misconduct policy.

The perpetrator could face a fine of $100 plus restitution.

Fox says that replacing the tree could cost thousands of dollars, but more valuable was the tree’s value to the arboretum.