Beavers are herbivorous animals, and their diet consists mostly of woody plants, such as the bark, leaves, and twigs of trees. In Virginia, beavers are known to feed on a variety of tree species, including birch, maple, oak, and willow. They also consume aquatic plants, such as water lilies and cattails.
To access their food source, beavers use their sharp incisors to cut down trees and branches, and then transport them to their lodges or dams. They have a unique digestive system that allows them to extract as much nutrition as possible from their food, particularly the tough cellulose found in wood. Beavers have a specialized organ called the cecum, which ferments their food and breaks down the cellulose with the help of bacteria, allowing them to absorb nutrients that are otherwise difficult to digest.
Beavers are also known for their ability to alter their environment to suit their needs. By building dams, they create deep ponds or wetlands that provide them with a consistent source of food and protection from predators. These ponds also benefit other aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles, and frogs, by providing them with a new habitat. However, beaver activity can also have negative effects on human infrastructure, such as flooding roads and farmland. As a result, managing beaver populations is a complex issue that requires balancing their ecological significance with human interests.