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Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009
Albino squirrels living in Surrey
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

Albino Squirrel in Great Bookham
Ivor Paetow's three albinos in Great Bookham may disprove the theory

According to wildlife experts the odds against a pure white squirrel being born are one in 100,000.

With a grey squirrel population of over 2.5 million in the UK, in theory this would mean that there are only 25 white ones out there at any one time.

So it may come as something of a surprise to learn that so many of those little albino creatures have chosen to live in Surrey.

But if the figures are to be believed, that is exactly what they are doing!

Albino squirrel
Albinism is due to gene mutations that affect the production of pigmentation
True albino animals lack melanin and are white with no markings and with unpigmented pink eyes
Squirrels, white or otherwise, do not make good pets and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to release grey squirrels or to allow them to escape into the wild once caught.
It is possible to find melanistic (black) squirrels in the UK as well, but these along with the albino variety are rare

I love nature.

In fact, I'm so potty about our flora and fauna that I'm the sort of person who can get over-excited on finding an acorn or a nice shiny conker.

I'll leap unexpectedly into the undergrowth on our weekend walks, only to emerge like David Bellamy (but without the beard) clutching something wriggling or slimy, or both.

Occasionally I'll return with a fabulously interesting twig or something similar to show my husband, who will roll his eyes heavenward and wonder how long before he can escape to the pub.

So you can imagine my excitement, when back in 2003, I reported on the story of Persil, the baby albino squirrel accidentally knocked out of a Surrey tree by two boys playing football.

He and his grey brother Daz were taken to London Wildcare Centre in Wallington, where they spent the rest of their days being looked after by Ted Burden and his team.

Persil was lucky. Like all albinos, he did not see or hear as well as other squirrels. This, coupled with the fact he stood out from the crowd like a furry Belisha beacon, could have made him an easy target for a predator to catch and kill.

The Dorking squirrel, affectionately known as either Percy, Albi or Snowy depending on your point of view, was not so lucky.

Having lived a happy, and possibly charmed life, in St Martin's Churchyard in Dorking for the last few years, he was killed in a road accident in October.

Sad though it is, his life and death, both widely covered in the national press, highlighted the fact that Surrey still has more than its fair share of albino squirrels.

In 2003, as Persil's story broke, the figure given by wildlife experts alleged that one in every 100,000 squirrels born in the UK was an albino.

Squirrel population of 2.5 million

Even allowing for a gradual rise in the grey squirrel population of 2.5 million, it still suggests that pure white squirrels in the UK are as rare as hens' teeth.

But in the last six years, we have been sent many photos and stories from residents, telling us about the local albino squirrels living in Surrey's parks, churchyards and back gardens.

This week, Ivor Paetow really threw a spanner in the "squirrel works" by sending in some pictures, of not one but three white squirrels in his garden at Great Bookham. You can view them here .

Nicknamed The Three Albinos by Ivor and his family, the little group proves another white squirrel fact.

Rare they may be, but they often live in small albino colonies, so if you see one, the chances are there are others nearby.

But with Ivor's drey playing host to at least three of them, it means there are only 22 other albino bushy-tailed critters at large in the UK's treetops.

And your reports from across the county suggest this is either, not the case, or they all live here in Surrey!

So in conclusion, it seems there are far more albino squirrels out there than the official figures would have us believe.

Or maybe, as I first suggested in 2003, there really is something in the Surrey water!


I saw a white squirrel in Selsdon Woods, South Croydon today, Sat 13th March.

Crispin Williams

We saw one today in Lloyds Park in Croydon next to the children's playground! Tried to take a photo with my camera but it did not come out. Very pretty though and I have never seen one before, nor have the rest of my family.

Morgan Matthews

We have been seeing a white squirrel in Itchingwood Common on the Surrey/Kent border as we drive about for the last 2 years. He's getting quite brave now and will some times come over for food.

Helen Nicholson-Herpe, Edenbridge

We frequently see an albino squirrel happily jumping about in the trees opposite our office in The Street, Ewhurst, Surrey. I thought my colleague was hallucinating when he first mentioned it (in quite an excited manner) but it is definitely a squirrel and it is definitely an albino!

Anwen Matthews

Great Bookham squirrel
This albino squirrel comes to our back garden on a daily basis. We live in Little Bookham, so it might be that this is from the same family of squirrels that Ivan Paetow sent in.

We call him (her?) 'Snowy' too -- as it started coming regularly when the snow came a few weeks ago. It is very sociable, and definitely holds its own against the other grey squirrels in the garden.

Kirsten Asmussen

White squirrel
Further to my recent email my daughter has spotted this albino squirrel again in her back garden.

She lives right in the middle of Cheam, Surrey (Park Road) which is quite a busy area.

Bryn Stocker

There's at least white squirrel still living in Bookham - Sole Farm Road area. It seems to play happily with the greys, chasing as well as being chased.

Ian Bambury

Just after Christmas 09, one ran in front of my car. It was definitely white and definitely a squirrel!!! And very nearly a flat one!!!!!!! My family and friends have never seen one and judging by your article we are quite privileged.

Tim Coles, Ewhurst

White Squirrel
On September 26th my wife and I saw this one in Talbot Road Carshalton opposite the Rectory.

We had also seen this or another one a few months ago in Carshalton Park.

It was quite exciting. I do not normally stop to take photos of Squirrels.

Ken McGregor

I saw a completely white squirrel at the footpath that runs through Lingfield golf course on the 3rd January 2010.

Ceri Thayer

I too have seen an albino squirrel in Surrey a couple of times. It was in the woods near here though it was a few years ago now so I suspect it has sadly died now.
Katherine, Camberley

I had an albino squirrel run across the road in front of my bicycle last week in Caterham
Noel Kelly

I have seen one several times this year in the gardens of houses opposite the offices of Raven Housing Trust on Linkfield Lane in Redhill, Surrey.
Graeme, Merstham

We have got an albino squirrel living in Roffes Lane, in Caterham. Spotted him during the summer and seen him a few times since. He's normally in the trees by the fields. A truly rare and wonderful sight.
Jan Worpole, Caterham

Do you have photos of albino squirrels in Surrey? Have you seen one or more in the county? Email us at surrey@bbc.co.uk with pictures or tell us more.

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