Couple plead innocent in alleged sale of bear skulls

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldAugust 17, 2013 

A Kennewick couple face Nov. 4 trials for allegedly selling two black bear skulls to undercover wildlife officers.

Christine June Klages and Steven Raymond Klages, both 49, have pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to one count each of first-degree unlawful trafficking in fish, shellfish or wildlife.

The husband and wife were busted by Washington State Fish and Wildlife officers in an undercover operation using a website to identify and apprehend people involved in the illegal trafficking of protected wildlife, according to Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken.

The couple responded to a Craigslist advertisement and offered to sell various wildlife items, Siefken said in court documents.

The undercover officers went to the Klages' home on Jan. 25, 2012, and paid a total $700 for the two skulls and a bear rug, documents said. The price for the skulls reportedly was $450.

Steven Klages allegedly acknowledged during that meeting that he knew it was illegal to sell the goods he was offering.

Siefken told the Herald it is not known if the Klages hunted the black bears themselves or got the skulls through other means.

The Klages are out of custody on their personal recognizance.

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