"I refuse to live in fear. I had a friend that always worried something would go wrong, and it always did. YMMV"
I understand your viewpoint Brian.
Since this thread has gone on for 7 pages, I figure I might as well throw my own 2 cents in like everyone else. ;-)
For me, carrying a gun is not about living in fear. I agree with those who think the odds of needing a firearm while hiking are slim to none. Yet I always carry one. Carrying firearms has become second nature to me after more than a decade of being in a line of work where I need one. In fact, grabbing the pistol before I head out the door takes no more thought than grabbing my car keys, wallet, and cell phone (actually, I sometimes forget the cell phone but never the handgun hahaha).
Because of an oath that I swore, I have a duty to act 24/7, 365 days per year. That means that if I ever come across someone who is being victimized, I don't get to leave, run away, or watch and call 911, etc. I have to act. With that responsibility, the thought of me ever needing a firearm to defend someone else's life and not having one is a scary thought. It would suck to know that I failed to save someone that I could have,simply because "I probably won't need it", or "that extra 1.5 lbs is too heavy".
Just my .02
Now as to the original question of safety while hiking, if it is something you are concerned about, OC spray (pepper spray) is often very effective on animals. I've used it countless times on vicious dogs (with varying degrees of success).