How to determine who is the culprit? Aside from the obvious circumstantial evidence of tracks in the snow,(deer tracks)
there are other subtle clues which can reveal the miscreant's identity. Anything eaten above three feet high was probably attacked by a deer. Things eaten all the way down to the ground, completely buzzed off, were probably a rabbit snack. Flowers and blooming stalks clipped off and left lying on the ground were most likely victims of squirrel mischief.
If the damage consists of newly installed plants dug up, which happened to my sapling Redbud two years ago, blame the squirrels.They're always digging in the beds, in the planters, in the containers, in the lawn.There's no need to continue being a victim of these sneaky criminals, and the best defense is to be prepared. Don't wait until the hungry thieves discover the goods in your garden. Start at the first sign of new growth a consistent regimen of spray repellents. It's best to vary them so the critters don't get used to the scent. When I plant new things, I always cover the planting area with chickenwire for several days until the soil settles and hardens a bit, as the squirrels like newly turned soil in which to dig. With these measures, damage can be kept to a minimum and peace and harmony can reign in the garden.
This post is part of Gardening Gone Wild's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop.