WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- A massive cottonwood holding a bald eagle's nest has been torn down in Weld County, frustrating neighbors.
The tree, off County Road 13 and County Road 34, was torn down by the property owner Thursday.
"I was driving down this road this morning, and their tree is gone, the nest gone. And it just makes me heartbroken," one woman who lives in the area said. "As I saw that, I started to cry because it's an American icon. I don't know why you would take anything away from an animal like that."
The news created angst on Weld County social media pages, with some questioning the legality of the move.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a rancher applied for and received a permit, allowing him to remove the tree as part of an irrigation project.
It's illegal under federal law to harm or disturb a bald eagle or its nest without a permit.
"In this case, we issued a permit for removal of a nest that was not being used by eagles for nesting," said Kevin Kritz, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Wildlife. "That's because it's outside the nesting season."
Kritz says he personally visited the property over the summer and signed off on the permit.
He says while some eagles remain in Colorado over the winter, they are not actively using the nests this time of year.
He says the eagles should have no problem relocating to another tree before breeding season begins in January.
"There's other trees present there that could still serve as potential nests trees," Kritz said. "That's basically what they're going through now, because the one they were in last year is gone."AlertMe