One day my huge lakefront crepe myrtle was there, and the next day it was gone - gnawed/eaten almost to the ground by something. All of the branches are gone too, cleaned up after itself apparently. What kind of animal could have done that? I am not aware that beavers live in the Smith Mountain Lake (VA).
Crepe Myrtles Gnawed Completely Down
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
If the gnawing came to a point, then it may very well be a beaver moving into the area, which means that you may need to watch out for your other trees, as beavers tend to clear all the trees in an area. It may also have been deer, especially if you have had a difficult winter or if you know that the area is over-populated. A starving deer (or herd) will attack trees for their bark and young twigs. They don't prefer it but have been known to do so when desperate. Deer damage will look as though someone ripped strips an swatches out of the tree.