Choose your words carefully

“Mountain Lions On The Prowl Again In This CO Neighborhood,” “Four mountain lions seen stalking around Colorado neighborhood,” “4 mountain lions prowl Conifer neighborhood.” These three headlines are for the same event- a family of mountain lions caught on a security camera, walking through a Colorado neighborhood at night, without any incident. So why are the words prowling and stalking used to describe their behavior instead of walking, meandering, or exploring? Stalk and prowl indicate criminal behavior, like a thief peeking into windows, looking to steal from or hurt someone. Why are these words used so often to describe cougars?

If you actually watch the video, the big cats are just doing what animals do, walking around and not bothering anyone at all. Words matter, and when the words most often used to describe benign animal behavior, indicate negative or even criminal intent, it can seep into the minds of the people reading the words. Without even realizing it, people may start to fear these animals, thinking that they are always out to get them, even when they are just living their lives and not hurting anyone at all. We should all try to be more conscious of the words we use to describe wildlife and try not to bestow negative human traits on normal animal behavior.