A GHOSTLY furry white figure surprised a family when they looked into their back garden.

The Skipp family from Clearbrook Close, Loudwater, were amazed to discover an unusual visitor had crept into their garden for a snack -an albino squirrel.

It was first seen on Monday by Melanie Skipp, 27, and has been spotted every day since. She said: "I was at home on my lunch break and spotted something white and furry in my back garden.

"At first I thought it was a little kitten then realised to my amazement that it was a pure white squirrel with red eyes. I managed to quickly find a camera and take this picture of it.

"It ate some nuts from the bird feeder and then had a quick drink from the bird bath. I was so excited. I think Bill Oddie would be proud."

Although Miss Skipp's photo was blurred, the squirrel can clearly be distinguished.

Albino squirrels are extremely rare - only one in 100,000 are born with the condition which is caused by a gene inherited from the parents.

The striking all white red-eyed nut eaters can have grey siblings because the gene is not dominant.

There was a sighting in a village near Ashford, Kent in March this year and there have been reports of others in Hampshire and Berkshire over the last 18 months.

Mother Nora Skipp said: " It turns up around lunch time - it's a late riser. It's certainly smaller than the other squirrels but it held its own against the two grey ones and it was fighting for peanuts. Our next door neighbour has sighted it as well.

"I think he's here to stay. He's found our bird food table and I'm expecting to see him daily. The squirrels all live across the road in Magpie woods and come across from there. It's cute that's for sure."

The unusual animal has a fan club in Texas - the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society - dedicated "to the protection of all squirrels, especially those that are albino."