The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) is endangered and in decline. Populations are increasingly fragmented, and only a coordinated conservation effort at the European level may guarantee its long-term survival. To obtain a general population genetic picture on a larger geographic scale, we screened 117 individuals from seven local populations in Hungary, Romania, and Austria for allelic variation at eleven microsatellite loci. We found a high (23.4%) proportion of private alleles, and a moderate to somewhat elevated level (15.27%) of partitioning of genetic diversity among populations, compared to that found in many other terrestrial mammals. Genetic variability was significantly higher than in earlier studied Czech populations that are considered genetically depleted, but significantly lower than in undisturbed populations of S. suslicus and S. brunneus, that are similar to the European ground squirrel in their ecological requirements, reproductive biology, and social organization. Genetic diversity was also lower than in most presumably "undisturbed" populations of other Sciurid species. This, together with the observed level and pattern of genetic differentiation among populations, such as no significant increase of genetic differentiation with geographic distance and similar variance of genetic differentiation between populations independent of geographic distance, indicated the prevalence of relatively strong drift effects for all populations. A Bayesian STRUCTURE analysis and a factorial correspondence analysis concordantly revealed a fairly complex genetic composition of local populations, but no major geographic trend in the pattern of the genetic composition. Overall, the results suggest disintegration of local colonies that might earlier have been more connected genetically. The STRUCTURE analysis also suggested anthropogenic translocations among single Hungarian populations. Our data on genetic diversity and its distribution do not object to such conservation measures. Translocation of individuals particularly from nearby populations may increase the chances of survival of small and isolated populations and counteract inbreeding at low densities. (C) 2011 Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Saugetierkunde. Published by Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.