Using microsatellite markers we determined genetic variability for two populations of spruce grouse in eastern North America, one on a coastal Maine island where breeding habitat is limited and highly fragmented, the other in central New Brunswick (NB), where suitable breeding habitat is generally contiguous across the region. We examined six markers for both populations and all were polymorphic. Although the number of alleles per locus and the proportion of unique alleles were lower in the island population, and probably a result of small sample.size, heterozygosity and a breeding coefficient (Fis) indicated slightly more variability in the island population. Deviation from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium also was more evident in loci for the mainland population. Several traits previously documented in the island population: relatively long natal dispersal distances, reproductive success, territoriality, adult survival, and longevity support the maintenance of hetrerzygosity, at least in the short-term. Sample collection from two small (500 ha), separate areas in NB, and the predicted importance of immigration density to supplement this population demonstrate the need for behavioral and ecological information when interpreting genetic variation. We discuss the relevance of these issues with respect to genetic variability and viability.