The lack of security fencing around one of Scotland's most prized forest estates is contributing to a dangerous decline in deer numbers, one of the country's gamekeepers – who is quitting his post a year early – has said.

Stewart Cumming, outgoing keeper at Mar Lodge in Deeside, is retiring a year early because he no longer wants to continue killing thousands of the animals, the Daily Record reported.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which bought the estate in 1995, has pursued a policy of shooting deer in order to protect the pine woodland – rather than fence it off.

Mr Cumming told the newspaper that the NTS had focused on the regeneration of Scottish pine rather than sport and the community.

"I think it was wrong to keep on shooting deer when they were seeking shelter in such a hard winter. I do not agree with that. But you had to do what you were instructed to do," the 64-year-old told the newspaper.

"Fencing would have done the job of protecting the trees."

Peter Fraser, of the Scottish Gamekeepers' Association, told the newspaper that the problem isn't only affecting Mar Lodge, with deer managers across the country voicing the same opinion as that of the veteran keeper.

"There is abuse of deer because of unfenced forests and abuse of public money. Someone should be made accountable.

"They (NTS) have mucked about with this for 15 years and have very little to show for it. They should admit they made a mistake and put up fences," Mr Fraser said.

However, the NTS said that the pine regeneration project had been successful, with more than 80 per cent of the saplings in some parts of the estate showing two or more year's growth.

Recently, the National Trust announced plans to introduce a sheep-proof fence around Kinder Scout, in the Peak District, in order to improve its eroded condition.ADNFCR-3337-ID-800288343-ADNFCR