THE owner of four of Loch Lomond's islands has blamed the "devastating" environmental impact of wild camping for the dwindling capercaillie population in the area.

Luss Estates believes further restrictions on wild camping are urgently needed to help protect the likes of osprey and otters, as well as the islands' ancient oak woodland.

The area is home to the last southern populations of the capercaillie, but there are only a few birds left and they are not breeding, so conservation bodies accept it is likely they will die out.

Last week, Scottish Natural Heritage announced conservation efforts would focus on more stable capercaillie populations further north.

Now Luss Estates, which owns Inchconnachan, Inchtavannach, Inchmoan and Inchlonaig, is calling for action to be taken.

Simon Miller, the chief executive, said: "Luss Estates was dismayed to learn Loch Lomond's capercaillie population had reached such critically low levels. As owner of the principal islands on which the capercaillie reside, Luss Estates has for many years worked closely with SNH, RSPB and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to protect and preserve these precious habitats, eliminate predation and, as far as legally possible, minimise human disturbance.

"This latter factor, particularly in relation to the increasing popularity of unrestricted wild camping on the islands, has, we believe, had a devastating impact.

"Last year, an opportunity to address this issue was missed, with the postponement of the National Park's bylaw review."

He said that while Luss Estates fully appreciated SNH's need for pragmatism, they were nevertheless disappointed Loch Lomond's capercaillie were effectively being resigned to history before realistic efforts to minimise the human disturbance caused by wild camping was fully addressed. Camping on the east side of Loch Lomond between Drymen and Rowardennan is restricted to designated sites and there has been a dramatic reduction in litter. But there are no restrictions on camping on the islands.

Gordon Watson, director of operations for the National Park, said: "The islands remain heavily protected because of the important woodlands and other habitats that are home to key species, including ospreys and otters.

"Working alongside Police Scotland through Operation Ironworks, our rangers will continue to patrol the islands and speak to visitors to ensure responsible behaviour."

He said the park authority remained committed to producing a visitor management plan for the islands with the co-operation of the landowners.

Consultation last year had revealed a range of views, with some responses arguing that no visitor management was needed.

Mr Watson added: "We are now further considering management options for the islands and will undertake a public consultation this winter."