I'm wondering how common it is to see or encounter large carnivores like bears and mountain lions in the lower 48 when hiking in the United States (okay, bears are tehnically omnivores, but you get the idea).
It's well known that deaths and serious injuries from wild animal attacks in the lower 48 of the U.S. are extremely, extremely rare. Fear of animal attacks is probably one of the more irrational phobias that a lot of people have, but it's such an instinctual fear that's hard to shake off just by learning about the statistics. Such fear may be in the genes of homo sapiens. See Slate, Technology
Sometimes I think that what I am really afraid of is simply the chance of having a nerve wracking encounter with a bear or mountain lion.
So a question for the highly experienced hikers and outdoorspeople out there: how often do you see or encounter large carnivores out in the wild? For the sake of discussion let's define sighting and encounter as:
- sighting: saw the animal , but a long distance and/or it ran away quickly
- encounter: animal was clearly aware of your presence and stayed for several seconds or longer, followed you, or displayed apparently aggressive behavior, etc.
Of course this depends on context, but in the absence of hard data (I doubt there are scientific papers that estimate the probability of encountering a particular animal while going on a hike of length X in a particular place), it's useful to gather a range of anecdotes.
To make this question more precise: please think of this as asking for an "upper bound" on the probability of seeing a bear (etc). We know that the chance of seeing a bear anywhere outside a zoo is "low", but how low is low? How high can "low" be, in typical wilderness areas in the United States?