These sea lions are an intelligent and social species. They travel in groups of 12 or more, and hang out on man-made structures such as piers and jetties. They gather on remote sandy beaches and rocky areas to breed. During breeding season, males claim and defend their territories. Mothers usually give birth to a single pup after a gestation period of 11 months. The pups are able to swim at birth, although young pups stay on the beach rather than venturing into the water.

California sea lions are usually dark brown, although some females can appear tan. Pups are born with a dark, black-brown coat. The California sea lion is faster than any other sea lion or seal in the world. They can dive to depths of 900 feet, and can stay underwater for nearly ten minutes without breathing by slowing their heart rate.

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