The footage has caused an outcry from moorland and conservation groups as it is peak breeding season for ground nesting birds, including rare red and amber listed species.
Baildon Moor is owned and managed by Bradford Council, which denies any involvement in the cutting.
Coun Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “We’d like to thank people for bringing this to our attention.
“Without our knowledge or permission someone has mown strips of vegetation on Baildon Moor. This is extremely concerning due to it being the season for ground nesting bird and to damage nests is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”
He went on to say the council was now working with police and Natural England to investigate the matter.
Conservation groups were quick to condemn the actions taken by the tractor driver and stressed the need for Bradford Council to ensure its management policy was robust when it came to protecting ground nesting birds.
Andrew Gilruth, communications director at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “With so many species of ground-nesting moorland birds in decline we must urgently address what happened.
“Bradford Council owns huge areas of precious moorland and it must ensure moors they manage are not mown by tractors in the middle of the nesting season. There is no ambiguity in the law. It prohibits this type of nest disturbance.”
BASC uplands officer, Gareth Dockerty, said mowing at this time of year can cause untold damage to ground nesting birds. He said BASC had contacted the council to ask why this happened and to ask for details of its management plan for the land.
In a statement, the Campaign 4 Protection of Moorland Communities said it may have been concerns over wildfires which led to the mowing as a form of fire break. But went on to say people who know the country know it is not the time to cut nesting habitats.
West Yorkshire Police said when they arrived at the moor the tractor had gone, but they were now working with the council and Natural England to see if any offence had taken place.
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