CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The WCNC Defenders team learned about a $3 million project to increase the height of the perimeter fence.

It's meant to keep out wildlife like deer, which have caused scary situations in recent years. In 2017, a plane was forced to make an emergency landing after hitting a deer on takeoff. 

Federal data shows hundreds of wildlife strikes with aircraft at Charlotte Douglas.

City leaders say the airport fence is currently at seven feet -- that's about the same height as Shaq. This project would raise it to 10 feet, which is the height of the hoop. That makes it nearly impossible for deer to jump over. 

The airport falls in the district represented by council member LaWana Mayfield, who shared her own frightening flying experience. She says she was on a flight from Miami to Charlotte back in the '80s. 

"We had to do an emergency landing," she said. "More than a third of us had to go to the hospital."

Though she never learned the cause, the councilwoman says it makes protecting the public personal for her.

According to an FAA database, there have been 700 related incidents from the beginning of 2016 through August 7 of this year. 

Besides deer, the WCNC Defenders investigation also found four strikes with coyotes, three with turtles, and two involving raccoons. All of that evidence brings the investigation back to the fence. 

"It's been proven that deer, which probably has the highest jumping capability would not attempt a ten-foot jump," Mayfield said.

She says the fence will go deeper, 18 inches under the ground, to keep other animals out. Of course, it may not help with birds, which cause many of the wildlife strikes, but the airport has a wildlife coordinator who fires a pistol with a variety of noisemakers.  

Fortunately, the plane that struck a deer in 2017 circled back to the airport and landed safely minutes later. Soon, there will be a new way to help prevent similar issues in the future. 

"We saw and identified a need and we're not waiting to address it, until there's a potential fatality," Mayfield said.

The WCNC Defenders team also looked at the number of wildlife strikes at other large airports to give some context and found Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver airports all had more wildlife strikes than Charlotte Douglas. 

Charlotte officials say the fence improvements are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

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