Video: Hazel the pick pocket driving walkers nuts
HAZEL is not a squirrel who needs to wait for a lunch invitation.
She prefers to pick the pocket of staff at the stately Escot Park.
The crafty squirrel learnt to pinch food from rangers at her home in Ottery St Mary while they carried nuts for the eight red squirrels in the park's enclosure.
And there's a graceful agility to the theft.
Leaping through the air, Hazel aims for park ranger Victoria Sissons's arm, before running along the sleeve and taking a peek inside her pockets.
Rangers have excused her outlandish behaviour because she is pregnant and gathering food ahead of giving birth.
And her behaviour is not unusual as red squirrels can jump up to 20ft through tree canopies when they spot food.
Hazel was born in 2011 in the enclosure at Escot, which is surrounded by 20ft of sheet metal to keep out the grey squirrels that are a threat to the reds. She breeds with partner Big Red.
John-Michael Kennaway, whose family has owned the estate for 200 years, has helped to establish a small conservation area for red squirrels on his land.
Mr Kennaway said: "Hazel is the matriarchal type and was one of the first squirrels here, so she is also one of the braver ones.
"All the squirrels here are used to humans and are really tame. They know all the keepers and will happily forage in their pockets for food."
He added: "They even have a check in visitors' pockets despite us not encouraging them to feed the squirrels."
One day the staff at Escot hope to release the red squirrels into the wild near Land's End.