The leader of Scotland's gamekeepers has warned some of the country's mountains may have to be closed to the public because they have become too crowded for wildlife to survive.

Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Assoc­iation, said the "sheer number of people accessing our Scottish hills" was making it "very difficult for the thing they were coming to experience - the wildlife - to co-exist."

Mr Hogg raised the problems while addressing students at Edinburgh University about wild land as a concept and policy issue in Scotland.

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Crofters and others living in rural communities recently accused public body Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) of ignoring their concerns when it mapped out Scotland's wild land.

The hard-hitting criticism from the Crofting Commission has warned that designating certain areas with Wild Land status would be divisive.

SNH put out the Core Wild Land 2013 Map, which sets out 43 areas of remote and often challenging terrain. The majority are in the Highlands and islands, many in crofting areas. The map is designed to inform planners and political decision makers about which areas are considered the most environmentally valued and important.

SNH stresses it would not constitute an environmental designation but be a strategic tool for use in planning policy.

However, Mr Hogg said the numbers of people using the hills was an increasing problem, and that controversial issues such as hill tracks - which walking and climbing groups say are scarring the landscape - could be overcome if they were built correctly.

"Wild land in Scotland is a misconception. SNH, for example, would have gained respect if they had called their consultation 'managed wild land' as everywhere is managed by man, to some degree or another," wrote Mr Hogg on the Scottish Gamekeepers Association website.

He highlighted the importance of private investment in the rural economy in keeping local schools open and sustaining lifeline community shops.

He added a landowner "could come from Mars" as long as money was invested in the local economy. "This is a win-win situation and even more so when it comes to stopping large tracts of land from becoming fragmented and our precious wildlife suffering because of it.

"We touched upon the sheer number of people accessing our Scottish hills and making it very difficult for the thing they were coming to experience - the wildlife - to co-exist.

"Should some of our mountains be closed down, periodically, to allow some recovery? Some leading ecologists believe so. Should some glens be restricted to organised vehicular access only to give our wildlife peace, as happens in South Africa?"

Community landlords have also voiced concern that action to protect wild land could hamper development in areas ravaged by the Highland Clearances.

Community Land Scotland has urged SNH to acknowledge that, until relatively recently, people used to live on what is now seen as wild land and the present human "deserts" are man-made.

Any resulting map should be overlaid by one that records those who were cleared, it said.