The declining European ground beetle Carabus variolosus, an indicator of undisturbed woodland brooks and swamps, is listed in the EU Species and Habitats Directive. Little is known about this flightless and endangered beetle, apart from its distribution range and habitat stenotopy. We present the results of a 2-year mark-release-recapture study on two neighbouring populations in Germany, which investigated basic parameters of population ecology that may be influential in the persistence of the beetle. Extremely small population sizes were the key findings. Since population densities corresponded to those of typical Carabus species, the size of the habitats was most probably the limiting factor. The risk of heavy losses during offspring development and hibernation may be alleviated by the considerable proportion of C. variolosus reproducing in more than 1 year. The fact that we did not recapture any marked specimens from the neighbouring population suggests a very limited dispersal power. The results imply a high vulnerability of the species, provide basic methodological information for an implementation of the EC Directive and for further research, and highlight the necessity to enlarge populated habitats.