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We know there is a wide range of dangerous creatures in the Forbidden Forest, from small to large. The Forbidden Forest is also not far from Hogwarts and we've seen proof, in The Chamber of Secrets, that the spiders from the forest were in Hogwarts and were fleeing Hogwarts for the Forest after the opening of the Chamber of Secrets.

With all the bad nasty creepy crawly things in the Forbidden Forest, and it being so close to a school, what prevents these darklings from leaving the Forest and creeping into (or invading) Hogwarts? There's no mention of anything magical that Harry and friends feel when they enter or exit the forest. And how are the spiders able to get past this protection?

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    Rubeus "Hagger" Hagrid. – Möoz Mar 25 '14 at 21:00
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I can’t recall this being specifically dressed in canon, but we can make some reasonable guess.

First, as Umbridge says in OotP, the beings in the Forest live there under agreement with the Ministry. I think this agreement is probably motivated by fear of Muggles: Hogwarts and the Forest probably provide the best place in the UK for magical creatures to live without being found by Muggles. (Large creatures like dragons being an exception). If they wanted to run free, it’s questionable how long they’d survive in Muggle Britain without being picked off.

Being close to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade also puts them near to lots of help, if they need it. While the centaurs might take pride in eschewing human help, other species would probably benefit from people like Hagrid living nearby. One prominent example of this would be Hagrid trying to stop the unicorn killings in the first book.

We might also think that the species in the Forest are at least monitored by the Ministry and School by the fact that there’s nothing so dangerous that it would seriously challenge a Hogwarts staff member. (Here I’m thinking Dementors, dragons, Chimeras, and so on). Obviously you wouldn’t want anything like that in proximity to a school. Possibly anything that dangerous has either been wiped out in Britain, or is kept at a suitably far distance.

Finally, their containment is probably motivated by fear of the Ministry. We don’t see any instances of something that lives in the Forest using magic, so if Dumbledore or the Ministry were turn their wands on the Forest, they could probably annihilate a large part of the population. Whether they’d do that is an ethical grey area, but the mere threat of attack, or just cutting off help and protection, would probably be enough to keep them in line.

Hope some of that makes sense, and goes some way to answering your question.

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    But what about the creatures that aren't self aware and can't think? – Tango Jan 27 '12 at 18:23
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    I’d guess that the school/Ministry have ways of keeping them there (what’s the magical equivalent of an electric fence?) both for their safety and the safety of Muggles who run into them. For example, what if a Muggle found a unicorn? They’d probably be put into zoos. I think the benefits of living in the Forest apply even if a creature isn’t sentient. (Compare with, say, the British fox hunting ban to protect foxes, even if the foxes themselves can’t understand the threat.) – alexwlchan Jan 28 '12 at 19:52
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I would imagine the threat of having to deal with the senior wizards in the school (Hagrid and Dumbledore) would likely put off any but the most organized assault on Hogwarts (as we see in later books). There are not, to my knowledge, any beings (not wishing to deem these "creatures" for PC reasons) both organized enough and willing to attack the school. Though on a few rare occasions, if I recall correctly, the centaurs do pop in for tea. Very, very angry tea.

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    Even the students could put up a good defense in a pinch, especially in the later years. – Xantec Jan 26 '12 at 14:35

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