I have received a report from Duluth, Minn., concerning a development even more alarming than the hole that is being eaten in the ozone layer by the killer bees. I say "even worse," because the worst thing that can happen, with the ozone hole, is that it will eliminate all human life on the planet, which would not be a TOTAL disaster because it would probably also mean the end of radio commercials for car dealerships. Whereas if this Duluth report is true, mankind faces a threat far more serious than extinction. As you have probably guessed, I am referring to Berserk Male Syndrome in llamas.

I am not making this syndrome up. I learned about it thanks to an alert reader who sent me an article from The Duluth News-Tribune & Herald ("The Northland's Newspaper"), concerning a man named Steve Bystedt, who has a farm in Canyon, Minn., and who bought a llama named Marco for $700 from the Lake Superior Zoo.

For the benefit of those of you who do not keep up with current events, I should explain that llamas are an important new trend, possibly even more important than hair mousse. Among the famous people who have purchased llamas are actress Kim Novak and humongously talented international vaporbrain Michael Jackson. Breeders can barely keep up with the demand. It would not surprise me in the least if, any day now, some smart breeder produces a llama containing a cellular telephone.

Why are llamas so popular? A recent Associated Press article quotes a llama owner as stating: "You get very attached to them. People ask, 'What are they good for?' Well, what's a piece of antique furniture good for?"

The problem with this line of reasoning is that you rarely read about a piece of antique furniture drenching its owner with spit. Which is precisely what Marco, the llama, did to Steve Bystedt on a number of occasions.

"You would walk in the barnyard, and he would charge at you from 50 feet away and try to knock you over," says Bystedt. "Then things would really deteriorate. He would spit. He would just out and out start spitting. It was like vomit, a slimy vomit, and it smells rancid. It's the most putrid smell you could conjure up. I'd be covered with it. It would be between my eyeglasses and my face."

Well, of course, this is not what you are looking for in an animal companion. At the end of a hard day, you do not say to yourself with eager anticipation: "Now for a face full of llama!"

So Bystedt cleaned himself off and did some research, and he found an article in the International Camelid Journal, a prestigious llama-oriented magazine that I am not making up, about Berserk Male Syndrome. This can occur when you take a male baby llama away from its mother and bottle-feed him and give him a lot of human contact, which causes him to become confused about his identity, so that instead of displaying normal llama behavior, which is similar to that of famed gentle long-lashed cartoon deer Bambi, the llama turns out more like Charles Manson.

Armed with this research, Bystedt filed a claim against the city of Duluth, which eventually gave him his $700 back. He gave Marco to a private zoo in Hinckley, Minn., where, at last word, Marco had an ostrich for a cell mate. Since ostriches have the same basic personality as Jabba the Hutt, we can only hope that this is not a petting zoo (SLIME-COVERED DAY-CARE CLASS FOUND PECKED TO DEATH).

But that is not my major concern. My major concern is: What if Berserk Male Syndrome is spreading to other species? I say this in light of the following recent alarming news developments:

Gary Hart is running for president again. (Source: The Washington Post)

Giant man-eating crickets are attacking villages in Peru. (Source: The Sun, in the same issue that had the story: BABY STRUCK BY LIGHTNING GLOWS IN DARK)

Oliver North. (Source: Mars)

And what, you ask, is the federal government doing about this? Don't make me laugh with bitter cynicism culminating in a hacking cough. The federal government has NOT EVEN STARTED HOLDING LENGTHY TELEVISED HEARINGS about Berserk Male Syndrome. So it looks as though it is once again up to us, the Private Sector, to put down our martini glasses and shoulder the grindstone of responsibility for sending generous donations of money or airline tickets or pleasure boats, whatever we can afford, to: the Foundation to Stomp Out Berserk Male Syndrome (F.S.O.B.M.S.), c/o Dave Barry, The Miami Herald, Miami, Fla. 33132-1693. Needless to say, your contribution is completely tax-deductible, provided you claim you gave it to a church. Also, you may rest assured that this is not one of those phony "charities" where all the money will actually go for fat salaries for my relatives. Let them get their own charity.